The Deacon's Bench

You can collect almost anything these days. The Franklin Mint is making a mint selling everything from replicas of antique cars to porcelain scenes from “Gone With the Wind.” When I was growing up, the mother of my best friend collected little Hummel figurines.

Well, I have a collection of my own: these three-dollar umbrellas. I must have 20 of them at home. I have one with the Velcro closure. I have one with the snap closure. I have one with a gold button. I have some with wooden handles. I have black ones and navy ones and tan ones. It all depends on where I was when the thunderstorm hit. And every time it happens, I tell myself, I’m not going to buy another one, and then about half a block from the subway, when I’m soaking wet, I give in and buy one at the newsstand. And then, a week or two later, when the weatherman is predicting rain, I forget it go out of the house without one.

So what I’m about to say falls under the category of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Because I do exactly what Jesus tells us NOT to do in today’s gospel. I end up not being prepared. And I get soaked. I sometimes think I’m single-handedly keeping the umbrella industry afloat.

But Christ today tells us something every Boy Scout knows by heart.
Be prepared.

Be like the servant who is awaiting the master’s return. Have the lamps lit. Be at the door, ready to greet him.

There is an almost anxious tone to this gospel – and I suspect we often think of it in terms of the second coming, or the last judgment. Be prepared for Christ’s return, and to have to give an accounting of your life. Be prepared to be judged.

That is part of it.

But I’d like to suggest another way of approaching this passage. One more hopeful. Because this particular gospel is not about an ending…but a beginning.

Be prepared…for something wonderful.

Be prepared for God to come into your life.

Be prepared to open the door to Christ…and let him in, and to serve him.

In a way, this gospel is nothing less than a profound parable about vocations. Not just vocations as we know them, to religious life. But also, I think, the vocation to the Christian life.

Because we are all called. Each of us has a vocation, a calling to fulfill for God. But are we able to answer it? Are we listening for it?

Are we ready for whatever God wants us to do with our lives?

Are we looking for Him, anticipating Him?

Are we ready to give Him what He wants and needs – our time, our talent, even perhaps our lives?

Are we prepared?

Several years ago, I wrote and produced a documentary for the History Channel on the Kennedy family. And this gospel reading was one that Rose Kennedy drilled into her children again and again: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much…and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Her message to her children was this: because you are so well-off, because you have had advantages that others have not, you need to give something back. It undoubtedly had an impact. To this day, many of the Kennedys are committed to some form of public service, whether it’s through politics, or the Special Olympics, or various forms of public advocacy.

But I think it’s misguided to think of this as just referring to material wealth. After all, last week, we heard Christ telling his disciples that life does not consist of possessions.

No, I think this passage goes deeper. What we have been entrusted with can’t be measured in dollars, or kept in a bank. People like the Kennedys won’t be stashing it away in a safe deposit box or a trust fund.

We have been entrusted with something better, the most monumental gift: our faith. As the letter to the Hebrews puts it so eloquently: that faith “is the realization of what is hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.” It is something beautiful and mysterious. And it is ours.

Our Catholic Christian faith has withstood two millennia of persecution and denial and doubt. And it has been passed on to us – the deposit of faith.

In short: we have been entrusted with much. And much will be required.

You can never know when God might come to your door, asking you to give something back.

Be prepared.

Be prepared…to love

Be prepared to feed the hungry…to shelter the homeless.

Be prepared to listen to a child who is hurting…or comfort a friend who is lonely…or pray for a stranger in intensive care.

Be prepared to stand up for those who have no one to stand up for them. The weak, the frightened, the old, the unborn.

Be prepared to live your life as a follower of Christ – a Christian. Because this faith is what we are, and what we have been given.

Much will be required of the person entrusted with much. And still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

Look around you at the faith that has been handed to us. And look before you, to the tabernacle, where the Eucharist, Christ himself, waits for us. And look to the altar, where the greatest mystery of our faith is about to unfold.

We have been entrusted with everything.

What will we do with that?

This morning, we pray to be ready whenever God comes, for whatever He may ask us to do.

Light the lamp. Wait by the door. Be prepared.

Be prepared…for something wonderful.

And of course, if you don’t remember anything else I’ve told you this morning, please remember this:

Don’t leave home without your umbrella.

Photo: from the AP

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