19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
August 11, 2013
GIRD YOUR LOINS AND LIGHT YOUR LAMPS
When I was younger, I used to do a lot of climbs up mountains, both high or low. Fun climbs that lasted no more than a day didn’t take too much preparation. All one needed was a small rucksack, a day’s supply of personal water, some food to keep body and soul together for a day, and very light clothing.
But things can get a little more complex when you set your sights to places higher. You need to analogically gird your loins and trim your lamps. You need a stove, or what climbers or campers refer to as a “cook set,” a sleeping bag, a tent, and a pair of good sturdy shoes, and don’t forget a set of clothes that would allow you to do what in our jargon, we also call, “layering,” as needed or as dictated by the fickle elements.
But anyone who has climbed anything higher than his rooftop knows that beyond all these accouterments, equipment, or high tech gadgets, there is need above all of something that no high tech gadget can give – something that one ought to possess deep within, some trait that one cannot do without. And I refer to the capacity, physical capacity or strength along with the inner energy that would make it possible for anyone to put one foot ahead of the other, and start on a journey of a thousand miles.
Abraham had one such essential trait. He had faith. By faith, he set out on a journey towards an unknown place. By faith he sojourned in the promised land. By faith he had power to generate. By faith, we are further told by St. Paul, he offered up Isaac when put to the test.
The life we all know is not a walk in the park. It is actually more like doing an arduous climb up a treacherous mountain. There are challenges every step of the way, and one cannot take things easy at any given time. One needs to be ready for any eventuality. One must be physically and psychologically prepared. And by preparation, I don’t mean gadgets and equipment, along with food and drinks galore.
The Gospel tells us what this preparation is like … no money bags that wear out … no possessions and nothing superfluous, nothing else but treasure that no thief can reach and no moth can destroy. Preparation, yes, and it has nothing to do primarily with possession.
I remember a major climb many years ago. Some “guest climber” fresh from the US barged into my group one day, just before embarking for the long journey up the second highest peak in the country. Coming as he did from abroad, he had first class equipment, clothing, backpack and all. He was prepared to the hilt!
But his so-called preparation soon proved unequal to the task at hand. At a more treacherous portion of the climb, he panicked. He was shaking in fear and was paralyzed. He wanted to go no farther. And everyone in the team was getting affected negatively by his fear.
I would like to think of myself as a relatively well-prepared man, in some aspects at least. Been there; done that … But I must confess that at times like now, I feel discouraged, even outraged, at the sight of much poverty, so much corruption, and so much crime and indifference in my country, neatly divided between the few rich and the teeming masses of poor people, thanks to a dysfunctional political system and elections that are, for all intents and purposes, a structure of evil.
I need more than just worldly preparation. I need something that Abraham and Paul had, something that Christ has come to bring to a world that “walks in darkness.” I need to have faith.
But what kind of faith am I talking about? Is it the touchy-feely type that makes me feel good just because I have someone I can call as Lord and Savior? Is it the fiduciary type that gives me someone I can trust in a world where no one is trustworthy? Is it some kind of wishful thinking that somehow all the bad things in my life and in society would somehow go away eventually? Does it mean taking refuge in fervent prayer and begging God to do a miracle and one day take away all the dark clouds that hover our lives?
All this may well be important, but there is something more to faith than just wishing and wanting. There has to be more than just this. There has to be some willing incorporated into faith, just as Abraham showed, just as Abraham did. Pope Francis in his recent encyclical Lumen Fidei, tells us thus: “The word spoken to Abraham contains both a call and a promise.” The “call” has to do with an invitation to leave his homeland and a summons to a new life. This faith was a call to an “exodus” towards “an uncertain future.”
It was definitely a call to action, to a type of performative faith, not just intellective, not just fiduciary.
The world that we all know is a world in darkness in many ways. What is there fore us to do? Today’s readings show us how. Now is the time to “gird our loins and light our lamps.”