Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12: 35-36).
As disciples, we need to be ready for the coming of Jesus. Yes for when he comes again at the end of time and just as importantly, to be prepared for his coming each day in the midst of our lives. If we do not prepare to encounter him daily, the likelihood of us being prepared for his coming again will be slimmer, and only the Father knows the time or the hour.
To plan something means that we outline all that needs to be done down to the last detail. This can be an advantage especially when we are dealing with blueprints for a home or building. By having detailed plans we can be sure we have the proper materials and tools, an estimated budget, and hire the help needed to accomplish the goal. There are many areas in our life where planning has its advantages. Planning our spiritual life is important, deciding when and how we are to pray, meditate, study, engage in Bible and spiritual reading and/or which service we are going to attend, establishing a routine of spiritual direction, time for fellowship and small groups, and how, when and where we can serve others. These are all plusses for planning.
The challenge with planning pops up when we become too attached to the plan and we leave no room for the Holy Spirit, no awareness for the knock at the door because we are so focused on finishing the plan. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are on the horizon. How many times have we experienced planning a dinner with guests, gotten stressed when things did not go exactly as planned and spent more time adhering to the plan and its execution such that we missed engaging with those we were working so hard to provide hospitality for?
Preparing is akin to planning, in that we get ready but are more flexible to other options not governed by our mind and control alone. Jesus calls us to be prepared to receive him at any moment. Are we prepared to encounter and be present to a classmate, colleague, family member, or neighbor who asks for help at an inopportune time, the homeless person in need, the undocumented immigrant, migrant, or refugee looking for safety and security, the unborn striving to actualize his or her potential, the coworker that has not been the most pleasant, the person that we perceive as somehow different from us – who we keep at arm’s length?
How about planning and preparing for those traumatic events in life that appear all of a sudden? When we heard of JoAnn’s diagnosis we went into planning mode, and anyone who has spent any time with JoAnn knows that she is in her element when there is something to plan for. There were many items we could plan out and for the most part, they came together as JoAnn planned. There were other experiences where we needed to be flexible and adjust the plans, sometimes on minimal notice. Since we were open to the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit, as well as support and prayers coming through family, friends, and those God sent our way, we were blessed during a tremendously challenging time.
JoAnn often said that life is hard, even before her diagnosis. She saw many people suffering and couldn’t understand why people couldn’t be kinder to one another. St. Oscar Romero wrote, “It would be beautiful if people saw that their flourishing and the attainment of their highest ideals are based on their ability to give themselves to others.”
Can we better prepare ourselves to be more open to those closest to us, even in the most challenging of times, as well as being present to whomever we meet today as human beings, as brothers and sisters, created in the image and likeness of God? Yes, even in our current political climate. Are we willing to see and serve Jesus, who is present in each person we encounter, for: “whatever you did for one of these least brothers [or sisters] of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
Photo: JoAnn and my last spring break together in CA.