Today’s gospel reading, Matthew 25:14-30, is about being caught out – nobody likes being caught out! We usually concentrate, when we read this Parable of the Talents, on thinking about using our skills for God and/or the Church. But, coming as it does in these weeks before Advent, the focus shifts and we look at the story in a different way. It follows on from last week’s reading about the wise and foolish bridesmaids – five were ready but five were caught in a state of unreadiness.
So, are we ready? Are you ready? Ready for what? In these parables of the Kingdom, the readiness is all about the return of the King, the bridegroom, the slave owner – all these figures are metaphors for God. So, are we ready for God? It’s easy to forget about God. God so often feels absent and we forget. Our lives slip – we can get so pre-occupied in the hurly burly of life, that we need to focus on that which is really important.
This time of year is a very special time for practising Christians, as the countdown to Christmas gets underway. In the Orthodox Church, Advent is a forty day season of fasting and prayer, rather like Lent, although the preparation is for a birth rather than a death. I think maybe these readings about ‘getting ready’ are a shadow of that rather longer season of preparation than our now customary four-week Advent. It’s good to start our spiritual preparation early – Advent gets so busy.
I wonder – what would happen if God were to make his presence vividly known right now. What would we feel embarrassed about? Would we have that feeling of having been ‘caught out’ – doing, saying, thinking something we really shouldn’t? Or might it be what we haven’t done which would make us blush? Might we suddenly discover that we really haven’t put ourselves out very much in the cause of God’s Kingdom? Could it be that our lives are exposed as being too comfortable, that we might suddenly see how little we have put ourselves out, how little effort we have really made for the sake of what really matters, or, how little we have lived out our faith in our daily lives?
We have plenty of guidance about what and what not to do – the Ten Commandments, the Law of Love that Jesus gave to us and the words of the Prophet Micah: God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
This season in the calendar of our faith asks us to stop – to pause for a while and to adjust our priorities. What would you change in your life if you really believed that, amidst all the stuff and busyness of life, God was actually watching over you? Increasingly nearly anything can take precedence over our faith.
The good news is that this isn’t really about God as being like a Police Officer or Traffic Warden, waiting to catch us sinning – we all sin, and God forgives us. But it is about the focus, direction and meaning of our lives. It’s about our priorities and how they might look in the light of eternity, in the light of the God of love, justice and peace.
So, this week, take some time to think how your life would look if you suddenly became aware of God’s presence – because the coming season of Christmas is about just that: God is here – he is with us now, and each day, each place, each choice.