Most people nowadays have been on a plane. Before the flight gets under way one of the attendants says something like this: “We’d like your attention for a few moments while we show you some of the safety features of this aircraft … “ The attendant then shows you how to fasten the seat belt, and advises you to keep it fastened during the flight. You are told the number and location of the emergency exits. And how, in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, an individual oxygen mask will be lowered in front of you. You are told that under your seat there is a life-jacket for use in the event of having to ditch into the ocean.
The idea behind all this is to help the passengers to be prepared for the unexpected. But few pay any attention to what the attendant is saying. If anything, it serves only to further unnerve the nervous.
In the Gospel Jesus gives us some instructions regarding the flight of life – a flight in which all of us are involved. He tells us to be prepared for the unexpected. Like faithful servants we should keep ourselves in a state of readiness/preparedness. Not in fear, but in trust and hope.
As life goes on we become increasingly aware of how fleeting it is, and how precarious is the hold we have on it. Life can be taken away from us in the twinkling of an eye. However, the brevity and fragility of life bring home to us how precious is the treasure we carry in earthen vessels.
Jesus was aware of the uncertainty of life. His parable stresses the fact that death can come at any moment. It isn’t that God tries to catch us unawares like a thief breaking into a house. That would be unthinkable. Death, not God, is the thief that robs us of life.
The uncertainty of life should not prevent us from enjoying life in the present. All of us would like to be able to end our lives with our plans carried out and our work done. But we don’t know if we will have that chance. What we do have is an opportunity to be faithful to our responsibilities and commitments on a daily basis, like the servant Jesus spoke about. Then we can go forward into the unknown, trusting in God’s gracious and loving care.
Once upon a time there was a court jester who for many years had helped to amuse the king and the royal court. But then he committed an indiscretion and was sentenced to death. Before the sentence was carried out the king summoned him and said to him, “In view of the many happy moments you gave me over the years, I will allow you to choose the method by which you are to die.”
The jester thought for a moment and then replied, “Your Majesty, if it’s all right by you, I choose to die by old age.”
The king was so amused at his answer that he granted him his request. Most of us would make the same choice. But we don’t know if we’ll get it. We are servants of the Lord and of one another. Blessed are those servants who are faithful and responsible. The faithful servant doesn’t fear the master’s return. He (she) welcomes it.
Any time is a bad time for the unfaithful servant. Any time is a good time for the faithful servant. “We are not called to be successful, only to be faithful.” (Mother Teresa)