“You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house.”
Having our houses broken into is a prospect we don’t really want to contemplate. But it would be a foolish householder who would ignore the need for security and for contents insurance. We hope that we shall never need it. House burglars tend to try to be unpredictable. If we knew when their arrival would be, then we might be able to catch them out, but it doesn’t tend to work that way.
The disciples of Jesus were often eager to know when God’s glory would be fully revealed. Jesus tells them not to be concerned with the time or the season, but he does tell them to be ready. It might seem to be a strange comparison that Jesus gives between himself and a burglar. No one welcomes a burglar, but for anyone of faith the arrival of Jesus should be a joyful prospect. Jesus knows how to make an impression and to get the attention of those who hear his words. In this image of the unexpected visitor, Jesus shows us that God does not operate according to our own timetables or expectations. It is those who are prepared who will be able to rejoice at his arrival.
The New Testament was first written in Greek. The Greek language makes the distinction between time as something ongoing and time in terms of an important moment. You may have been watching some of the sporting events that have taken place recently. There have been some dramatic moments and memorable achievements. We have seen the joy and surprise of those who have succeeded. But we know that those key moments don’t just come out of nowhere. The athletes themselves will be more aware of that than anyone else. Without all those weeks and months of dedicated practice and training it would never happen.
I think that something similar is true of our faith. We all long for those special moments of consolation and of wonder. Yesterday was the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. We see how the disciples were in a state of awe and wonder as they saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain, shining with God’s glory. It was an unforgettable experience. But their journey as disciples was not always like that. There would be times of frustration and uncertainty, times of doubt and times in which they would lose faith in themselves. Their faith in God would take a battering too. Jesus gave his disciples those glimpses of glory not to make them think that faith is always like that, but to give them the vision that would guide and encourage them along their way.
Sometimes our own personal faith can grow weary. Life can take a lot out of us, especially in these recent difficult times. We can wonder what God is doing. We may sometimes feel that our worship has become a bit too routine or that our prayer life is not all that it should be. Sometimes we might prefer to lose ourselves in more worldly consolations that give us a more fleeting kind of comfort. These are all very human experiences. But it is only our faith in God that will give us the strength to become all that we are created to be. Only God can bring us lasting peace and joy.
Like the disciples of Jesus, Abraham would have been encouraged through his life journey by those glimpses of glory and that personal sense of being called by God. When our faith is young it may seem more vivid. Even so, we can recapture that joy and that newness by continuing to find our own place in the Scriptures and through being honest and open to God in our daily prayer. We don’t have to do it alone. I don’t think that any of the Lionesses in their recent victory would have claimed that they did it alone, but as part of a team. For the same reason God calls us together as his Church to worship and to encourage one another as we work for the coming of the kingdom. We find strength in God and we should find support and understanding from one another too.
In all these ways we make ourselves ready for the God who cannot be controlled by us. The Jesuit spiritual writer, Gerard Hughes, spoke about the “God of Surprises”. As the gospel today reminds us, “the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” It also says: “Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” In terms of faith, being awake means the opposite of being complacent. If we know Jesus in the Eucharist and in one another, then he will not be a stranger to us. The more we are acquainted with God’s ways and the more we live by the example of Jesus, the more ready we shall be to receive him. He comes to us even now in all kinds of unexpected ways. We also proclaim in the Creed that he will come again in glory. Let us not be strangers to his presence so that we may be ready to share that glory.