1Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11; Luke 4:31-37
Readings like these always give me a jolt. On the one hand, they contain promises of deliverance and beatitude for the children of the light. On the other hand, they warn of a coming wrath in which God will surprise the wicked like a thief in the night and from which no one will escape. Although Paul assures us that we are all “children of light and of day,” and will, therefore, escape this wrath, there remains the lingering question, how do we know? I imagine that question was not lost upon Paul’s audience. I sometimes use this technique on my kids: “your mother and I know, honey, that you would never be involved in that sort of thing, but just in case you are, here is what might happen to you.” You parents know the drill. For most things, these threats are simply designed to pique a moral conscience that is, hopefully, already fairly well formed. However, the events that might follow the Lord’s coming like a thief in the night seem to be quite a bit more serious and carry more dire consequences should we be caught in the dark.
So how do we know that we are children of the light? I think the good Catholic answer is, “we don’t.” At least we don’t know with absolute certainty. Yet, even without certitude, we can have confidence in the authority of Jesus who has the power to deliver us from darkness. Like the man in today’s Gospel, we all suffer with “unclean spirits” of various kinds. Hopefully none of us is as debilitated by them as the person in today’s reading was by his. Still, these spirits, whatever they are, are a form of darkness that can threaten to overwhelm us. To these demons, I think, we must respond with the words of Jesus, “Be quiet” and trust in the power of Christ to transform us. Right before sleep is a good time to go demon hunting. By looking back over the past day, I find ample occasions to invite God’s transforming command into my life. Perhaps this is what being “awake” and “sober” really means.
Today let the words of the psalmist be our fervent prayer: “the Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?”
Today we celebrate the feast of a giant in Christian history, Gregory Magnus, Gregory the Great, a Doctor of the Church, composer, theologian, reformer, advocate of the poor, and pastoral bishop par excellence. What made him "great" was not so much his tremendous scholastic accomplishments, nor his stupendous governance of the Church in a tumultuous period of Christian history, but his ability to be ready for God's coming in every circumstance.
The name "Gregory," from the Greek word, "gregoréo," which means "to be awake, to be alert, to be ready," is an apropos name for a Christian. Jesus was always reminding his disciples to "be ready" for the Kingdom of God, like it was going to present itself at any moment if they would just open their eyes. I think of the famous Boy Scout motto, "Be prepared." The question that usually follows is "Be prepared for what?"
How slow we are to perceive and understand that God comes to us in the everyday, ordinary mess and minutia of our lives. Am I ready for God's coming today? Am I ready to place my hope in things unseen? Ready or not, God is coming, and probably in some ways I would least expect. I want to be ready.
St. Gregory, paradigm of readiness for God, pray for us!