Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Be prepared!
Lord Chesterfield, English diplomat and author, in his witty "Letters to His Son", had this advice -"No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today". Today's readings contain similar advice for those preparing for eternity.

Wisdom 6:12-16: Teaches that the gift of wisdom is given to those ready to learn, and is to be found in unexpected ways at unexpected times.

1 Thess. 4:13-18: For Paul, the essence of wisdom is to know that this life is a constant preparation for eternity.

Matt.: 25:1-13: is quite blunt in its message to make the most of the opportunities that come our way.

Point 1: I feel sure that each of you knows, or has known, someone who "is always going to do things". In my association with the Air Force as a part time chaplain, we had a Commanding Officer whom we called "Gonna" - he was always "gonna" do this, that, or the next thing! For him, he preferred the juxtaposed version of Lord Chesterfield's advice -"Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow"!
For those trying to give a Christian response to life's situations, this question of lost opportunities is a very real one. It presents itself forcibly when we read of, or experience, the death of a young person. As often as not, the first reaction is that it does not seem right for a life to be cut off before it has had the opportunity to reach its full potential. The Bali tragedies brought this home to us

Point 2: But coming to the question of lost opportunities as it touches each of us personally, it is important to recognise that opportunity is not only to be found in the past, but is also present in the here and now as well as the future. We should not allow regret over opportunities lost to blind us to present or future possibilities. Evidence that a person is allowing the past to exercise undue influence appears in such phrases as "if only..." and "Yes, but....." " If only I had studied harder...." or "I could have done that, but...." Such excuses do no good. They stifle the present moment and the possibilities that are at hand.

Another factor influencing the religious person's attitudes to opportunities is that of judgement. Those of us who are older remember being taught that we would be judged by a God who would be all justice and no mercy! One final mortal sin could undo a life time of goodness! Today, the tendency appears to be that we will be judged by an over indulgent God who will be all mercy and no justice. To the modern mind, sin is virtually non-existent! As always, the truth lies somewhere in between; in other words, - judgement will be by a God who combines justice and mercy.

Conclusion: One of my resource books for these reflections is Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's "Travels in Sacred Places"- a series of reflections prompted by a prolonged visit to the Holy Land, and which I recommend to all. In one of his essays, he creates a judgement scenario resembling a "This is Your Life" in which the defendant (me) will be asked such questions as -"In the years that you have had, what have you done with that time? In what way is the world a better place for your presence? In what way are the lives of others better for having known you? How far have you come along the journey of becoming all that you are capable of being? At this supreme moment of your life, tell me, who are you?
And the answers that I give will have to be totally honest. No more "if only..."; no more "Yes, but...." just an account of the good and the bad decisions that I have made. I will neither boast of how far I have come, or cringe in fear because of missed opportunities. Why? Because the God who listens, I believe, is a God who knows how to combine justice with mercy and, therefore, will listen to my all too human story with interest, sympathy and understanding..
We have been given a life time of opportunity; for some this time is longer than for others. But, short or long, it is enough for God's purpose. All that is required of us is that we "Be prepared"! Use the opportunities that come our way.

Scriptural reference: We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. [John 9:4]