Technically, it was a burglary, but it felt like a robbery. A man and his nephew broke into our house nearly 40 years ago and took some $20,000 worth of silverware, jewelry and equipment. Heirlooms, wedding presents from parents, a watch that had been a gift to celebrate my 21st birthday. They went through our dresser drawers, pulled our mattress partway off the bed, searching for hidden treasures and cash. Violated, reeling, I began to take on responsibility for allowing the crime to happen. I hadn’t secured the house properly with additional locks. I had, in my mind, left us vulnerable. I wasn’t ready when the hour came.
“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
A chilling warning from Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. Triggering in many of us the fear of not being ready for whatever happens, for being caught unprepared. Whether it has to do with securing our homes, being ready for an exam or preparing sufficiently for a task at work. Or being ready for Christ’s return, the challenge that beats at the heart of our Advent season, moves through us into Christmastide and beyond.
My mother held as a core part of her being the determination to interact always with others as if that would be the last time she would see them. Her decision did not come from a fear of mortality; it came from her desire to have all of her relationships intact, held in love, to leave no question about how much she valued the other person in case the unexpected hour came to either one of them before they saw each other again.
In time, I began to understand that I was not responsible for the crime committed against us in the burglary. But the fear of the unexpected hour lingers. With my mother’s approach to her relationships with others, she shows us how we can live not only in Advent but throughout our lives: engaging each other in love, tolerance, mercy and compassion. And as we do this, we can watch together as the unexpected hour loses its sting and becomes a thing to be watched for eagerly, to be welcomed with peace, confidence and joy.