October 21, 2014 – Homily delivered in August 2013 at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival…You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Luke 12:32-40)
Luke’s Gospel for today included the phrase, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” The Gospels are full of such warnings: be vigilant, be awake and alert, be prepared, be watchful, etc.
Those who lived during the several generations following the death of Jesus knew what it meant to be vigilant. They believed that the second coming would soon be upon them and they wanted to be ready.
Society’s lack of faith has made us less vigilant. If we truly believed what we say in the Creed, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” wouldn’t we be better prepared? Wouldn’t we be doing the right thing all the time, just in case today was the day? How prepared are we to be judged?
I began reflecting on how much time we spend preparing for other things. If our favorite music group is coming to town for a concert, we buy tickets six months in advance. We call friends, plan, and make arrangements. When the event is a week away, we touch base with everyone to confirm plans. On the day of the event, we only work a half day so we can get home, change our clothes and go out to dinner with enough time to get in line and be in our seats when the concert starts. We show incredible vigilance in our pursuit of musical entertainment.
Every Spring, young men make elaborate plans to ask their young ladies of choice to go to the Prom with them. They parachute into backyards or spell out the word “Prom” in rose petals or hide in cars wearing gorilla suits. They spend (or their parents spend) hundreds of dollars on tux rental and Prom dresses. The ladies spend hours fixing their hair and putting on their make-up. The couple has their picture taken before they climb into a limousine. They spend the evening dancing and looking good. They show incredible vigilance in their pursuit of the perfect date.
We spend a great deal of time planning and preparing and fussing over things of this world. Why are we less vigilant when it comes to our faith? My point is not that we should not go to concerts or Proms, but that we should show at least the same degree of care in preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ.
I had an opportunity to go to Haiti three years ago. It was just over a year after the major earthquake that devastated what was already a third world country. Thousands upon thousands of Haitians still lived in rubble. The destruction, and the smell, and the poverty, and the absolute desolation were like nothing I had, or have, ever experienced.
Each day we would go out and visit one of nine chapels up in the mountains. We brought medicine, rosaries, and human contact to the Haitians living in the areas surrounding each chapel. One day, we had a priest with us, so we were able to celebrate Mass. It was not possible for a priest to have a regular Mass schedule in these mountain chapels, so they used the chapel bell to let folks know a priest was present and Mass would be celebrated. The sound of the bell was a signal that Mass would begin in two hours. The bell was rung two hours ahead of time because some would need to travel on foot nearly two hours to get there in time.
The chapel had been crippled by the earthquake. One wall was completely gone. Parts of the other three walls were missing and there were large cracks everywhere. The building looked like it would collapse any minute. Boards supported by concrete blocks served as pews. But in the sweltering heat on this Tuesday afternoon at 1:00, the chapel was standing room only. Men were in buttoned up shirts, and women and girls were in their nicest dresses. There were big smiles on every face and they sang and they prayed with true joy in their hearts.
We sat in back and watched when the collection basket was passed. I saw work-worn fingers pull small coins from tattered change purses. I had tears in my eyes when the basket arrived at our seats and I saw what amounted to around 75 cents in the basket. (Mark 12:44 — “For the rich gave from their surplus wealth, but the poor widow, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”)
When the chapel bell rang, these people dropped whatever they were doing and answered the call, whether they were digging in the rocky soil to try to grow food for their family, or fortifying the walls of their concrete block home, or carrying water on their heads up a mountain. When that bell rang, they were prepared. They were alert and ready to respond.
I learned many things during my week in Haiti, but one thing the Haitian people taught me was the meaning of the phrase: “Be vigilant at all times.”