Sunday 19C, OT
Life is full of surprises. Do you agree with this comment?
In my personal experience of life, I have had to cancel my plans many times due to sudden changes. I have seen a healthy-looking young man dying unexpectedly of heart attack. I have met a nun who suddenly became paralyzed just after her many years of studying and planning to be an important teacher. I have witnessed a lady who became revived so amazingly after the doctors had said they could do no more. I have seen a boy who ran away from home and created many troubles coming back to his family with more love and maturity.
In my experience, surprises, pleasant and unpleasant, do exist and take place often enough that what Jesus tells us in the Gospel is worth our serious attention, for our own sake. Jesus calls for a good vigilance at all times exactly because we cannot totally control surprises. There are many things on our earthly journey that happen without our expectation. This is simply a fact that cannot be disputed. The temptation is to think that everything will happen the way we expect or plan. So it is necessary and wise to be careful about this temptation, again for our own sake. Jesus says to his disciples including ourselves: “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Preparing for the hour of the Lord does not necessarily mean the hour of our death but any time that the Lord wants to come to us for any reason, for example: to entrust to us a new mission, to give us a blessing, to open a better door for our life, to guide us into a more intimate friendship and union, to heal our wounds, to help us live more happily, and so on.
At this point, I would like to invite you to reflect with me on the question of Peter that follows the words of Jesus: “Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”” How do you think about this question?
I am sure we can answer this question easily and correctly. Yes, it is meant for everyone, including Peter, you and me. But I would like to invite us to go a little more deeply into a common tendency contained in the question of Peter that we somehow all share. I hope we can draw a lesson for our life. Ok, have you ever had the following experience: While you were having some issue with someone, you happened to hear a good message either from the Word of God or from a wise teacher, and you wished that that person had been there to hear it FOR HIMSELF/HERSELF so he or she would change his or her behavior. I know I have several times. And when I carefully examined my conscience, I realized that this tendency was not a positive thing at all. When I wish a person with whom I am having problem to hear the message, I am focusing on that person’s shortcomings, blaming that person for what has happened and ignoring my own fault. Instead of listening to the message as a lesson meant for my conversion, I may just listen to it as if it were addressed to someone else, not to me. I am being tempted to fool myself with self-justification. It is like I am saying to myself: I am right and just. THAT person needs to hear it and change, of course according to the way I think it should be. Obviously, this tendency is harmful for our spiritual life and relationships. It feeds us with a proud ego. That can turns us into an arrogant Pharisee.
My friend, ultimately the Word of God is meant for each one of us and it is for only one purpose: so that we may become holier and happier. May we be vigilant and wise enough to personally welcome the Lord’s message so we can enjoy more harmony and peace in this life. And we hope that when we finally stand at the gate of heaven, we will not have to be surprised and ask St. Peter: “Really? Was that message from God meant for me?” Instead, may we find ourselves very happy saying to him: “Thank you. You asked Jesus a good question and I got the answer right!”
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.
P.S.: We can keep on saying to him: “As a sign of my gratitude, I will take you out for a fat free steak dinner.” Well, everything is fat free and free in heaven!!! It’s different from here where everything is free fat and costly! J