See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. (Luke 12:35)
Jesus certainly has a way with words, and in his teaching he uses examples, makes comparisons with life, which are sometimes shocking.
He compares the faithful Christian to a fraudulent steward; he compares God listening to our prayers, to the bad tempered neighbour reluctant to stir from sleep, and here he says that the coming of the Son of Man, the return of Jesus at the end of time, will be like the visit of an unexpected burglar.
If you’ve even been burgled, you might have some idea of what he means. Though it is usually a case of closing the stable door when the horse has bolted, once someone has entered your house and stolen from you, you become very aware that it could happen again, that the visitors may return, and though they probably won’t, you fear them and try to be ready for them.
True. But why does Jesus use this image?
It is unfortunate, I think, that Christians who have tried to take passages like this seriously, have often concentrated on the wrong thing. They have focussed on the day and the time when Jesus will return: the end is nigh, they have proclaimed at street corners, from sandwich boards and sometimes on our doorsteps, because of course there is little point talking about the day and the time of Jesus’ return unless it is very soon.
But the point of all these passages is not the date and the time for the second coming of Christ but of our readiness to meet him.
Here is the question: are we prepared for him? Are we ready to greet him? The trouble is, much as we want to meet Christ we are never quite ready for him. It was St Augustine who said "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet!" We want to delay the moment, put off the day. The great Roman Emperor Constantine, the one who took Christianity from an illegal practice to the official religion, was baptised only on his deathbed. Others too, wait till moments of safety or the quietness of a kind of retirement to take the Big Step. And many of us, perhaps most of us, make compromises in our lives, or tell ourselves we’ll sort it out later.
Yes, the fear of the burglar passes as we settle back into our routine. We cut corners again and take chances.
But for Christ we must always be vigilant - not because he might catch us out, but because it is right to be ready now. Honesty cannot wait for our death beds. Compassion is does not only come with contrition. Saying sorry is easy, but living a caring, devoted and prayerful life requires something more.
Tomorrow will be good - but do not wait till then to live with God.