Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thief in the Night

33rd Sun. Year A
1Thes 5, 1-6
In today’s 2nd reading at Holy Mass, St. Paul describes the coming of the Lord as being like a thief at night. Anyone who has experienced a nocturnal prowler in one’s own home cannot be unmoved by this image! About 30 years ago I was sleeping in my monastic cell and I heard a strange noise in the hall. Sleepily I wondered what it was and also why my door was swung wide open. The noises gradually solidified in my mind as those made when someone is franticly opening and closing cupboard doors. My heart began to pound and my limbs seemed glued to my bed. Then a Sister yelled and a leapt to my doorway just in time to see a male figure speeding past. The Sister yelled again, this time with articulate speech: “There’s a man in the house!” I shouted back: “I saw him!” At this point, Mother Abbess poked her head out of her door and we both shouted at her, “Man in the house!” She immediately grabbed the large hand bell used for waking us up and began to ring it while walking quickly down the hall. We followed her, setting up a hue and cry which included, “Call the police!” Soon all the Sisters were aroused and gathered at the foot of the stairs on the first floor. Many had heard multiple footsteps running down the halls, so it was surmised there were several thieves. Some of the Sisters had secured makeshift weapons. I will never forget the bemused expression on the face of a 6 foot 6, broad shouldered policeman as he fixed his gaze on our tough, little Brooklyn-born sister while she brandished a curtain rod as if it were a sword and said, “Just let him touch one of my Sisters!” We told him of what we had seen, our hue and cry and the running footsteps. He glanced down at the curtain rod and said, “If I saw you all coming after me I’d run too!” Upon inspection, it appeared that one of the windows on the first floor had not been closed properly and had given easy access to our unwelcome visitors.
Not only St. Paul, but Jesus even calls Himself a “thief in the night”. So unexpectedly does He come! But does He need to come so unwanted as a thief is unwanted? St. Augustine wonders why we fear the Lord’s coming so much since we say that we love Him. Do we really love Him or do we love our sins more? Or is it perhaps that we just feel so helpless, so out of control of the situation when He suddenly comes upon us? And He does come suddenly, like a thief in the night, not only at the end of time, not only at the end of our own time at death, but even in the unexpected challenges of life. You just never know when He will come, nor how, nor under what guise. But what does He want to steal anyway? Is it not ourselves? He wants us to be His, but we are always on the defense. So He waits to catch us when our guard is down. Why don’t we instead make the job easy for Him and leave the windows open and the doors unbarred. For He only comes to take us to His Father’s house where we truly want to be.

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