At an Hour We Do Not Expect

August 11, 2019

Luke 12: 32-48

“At an hour you do not expect the Son of Man will come.” What is Jesus trying to tell us by this disturbing statement? One way of understanding it is that Jesus is referring to the time of our own death. And when we read it this way, his statement is certainly true. We all know that we will die, but the hour of our death remains unknown. You could die in a traffic accident this week. Those of us who have kept vigil with a dying parent or friend know that Jesus’s words are true then also. Even though we know that death will come in the next few days or hours, the exact moment of death is still something we cannot predict.

So why is Jesus drawing our attention to the uncertain timing of death? He wants us to be ready. As he says, “Blessed are those servants whom the master will find vigilant at his arrival.” Jesus wants us to be prepared. But how do we prepare for death?

Father John Shea tells of a former student in his twenties who made an appointment with him when he found out that he had incurable cancer. “Father Shea,” he said, “I just wanted to come and thank you. Something you said in class years ago has helped me immensely to face my death.”  “Really?” said Father Shea, not knowing what to expect. “Really!” said the young man. “One day you said there are only two potential tragedies in life. Dying young was not one of them. The two tragedies are: going through life without ever having loved and going through life without telling the people you love that you love them. When the doctors told me that my cancer was terminal, I began to think of all of the people who love me and whom I love. I took time to tell each one what they meant to me. I have expressed my love. Now when someone asks me, ‘How is it to be a twenty-four-year old person who is dying,’ my response is this: It is better than being an eighty-year-old person who is dying but who has never loved.”

The way then that we prepare for death is by loving others and by letting them know that we love them. And both of these parts are essential. I am sure that most of us here have a handful of people who we love deeply and who love us in return. But when was the last time that we expressed that love? When was the last time we told our spouse, our son or daughter, our friend how much they meant to us? Love that is not expressed is incomplete. If we find that we are having difficulty expressing our love to someone who we say is important to us, that is a warning that something might be going wrong in that relationship, a warning that we must do our utmost to address.

We should not wait to express our love until our fiftieth wedding anniversary or our daughter’s graduation or our friend’s birthday. When we express our love, it deepens our life. It enriches our appreciation of the people who sustain us. When we express our love, we come as close as we can to knowing the true meaning of life. We also prepare ourselves to welcome the Son of Man, when he comes at an hour we do not expect.

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