History is full of stories and records of individuals and nations alike, who prepared for one eventuality only to be totally surprised by an unexpected turn of events. War accounts alone make up many of these incidents, but we see too in sporting contests that the aim is often to spring a surprise move to blindside one’s opponents.
To take the dynamic of ‘contest’ out of this reflection, we might say that preparation and anticipation are very real and necessary aspects of life. But they can be limiting too.
What Jesus calls for through our scriptures today is not so much a matter of having a grand plan or even minutely detailed preparations in place, rather he speaks of an inner disposition. If we are to glimpse or sense the presence of the Lord, if we are to see signs of the ‘reign’ of God that point to the presence of the divine, then we need to live with an active and dynamic attitude – one of being alert. Static plans and preparations will always be limited by the extent of the present moment’s agenda and vision, rather we need a more foundational attitude so that we can finely tune our perspectives, so that we can notice differences and subtle movements, so that we can ‘see’ what others cannot see or what is not at first obvious.
Jesus warns us of the same. We cannot ‘know’ the hour or the Lord’s presence in our lives with certainty – there are too many variables in life and love. We can only know that the Lord does enter our lives just as boldly as he has entered our world, and that he is among us and active still. We need to watch – not just with our eyes, but with our whole being.
We are called to openness and receptiveness, to an alertness that is quietly at work within every moment of the day. We watch with the ‘eyes’ of faith which see what is not visible and obvious.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is the Provincial Superior of Holy Spirit Province, Australia.