Wisdom 18, 6-9 + Psalm 33 + Hebrews 11, 1, 2, 8-19 + Luke 12, 32-48
August 7, 2016 at Saint Peter the Apostle Church in Naples, FL
It has been suggested that there are two ways of approaching life: one is either a planner or a pilgrim. Planners like to have complete control over their lives and with clear goals they plan each stage of their lives day by day, year by year. The calendar and the clock are their guides. They have carefully examined what society considers success, and they spend most of their time trying to match or beat the lifestyle and values of everyone else. Life for them is a great contest to see who wins which usually means having the most stuff. Often failing to achieve such high hopes and goals, they end up bitterly disappointed and very often alone like the man in last week’s Gospel. On the other hand, a pilgrim who accepts life as a gift that continues to unfold as it is lived knows that no matter how hard they may try, they know that they will never have complete control over what happens in life. Surprises and disappointments never get them down because they see those things as opportunities for growth. Unlike the planner, the pilgrim never feels entirely comfortable or at ease with the values of society.
Planners refuse to live by faith while pilgrims see no other way knowing that life is full of risks, confusion, and troubles. The pilgrims simply put themselves in God’s hands, and open themselves to God’s protection always celebrating the present moment because they know it is only there for that moment and should not be wasted. There is about the pilgrim a spirit of joy that springs out of hope. This hope is not just a wish that everything will turn out alright in the end, it is a way of seeing and believing that the hand of God is to be found in every moment and every experience of life. This is a kind of hope that nurtures real Joy, a Joy that is divine, a Joy that springs from the very deepest conviction that we live in God, we live by God, and we live for God.
Abraham in the second reading today is the great example of the pilgrim. In him there is no planning, no scheming, no controlling. At the word of God he got up, left home and people and set out for a land God promised to show him. He went into the unknown, and the only compass he had was faith. We are his descendants inspired by that faith. Every day for us, who are honest about it, is journey into the unknown. We have no idea what’s going to happen next, but in spite of failures and frustrations in the past, we keep going homesick for a place where our hopes will be realized and where our true life will begin.
We should not forget that Abraham died without seeing God’s promise fulfilled, and like him, we too die after spending our lives in a journey to the Promised Land without reaching it because it isn’t here. Yet, like Abraham, we travel in faith and die in hope. For those of us who choose to be pilgrims rather than planners we gather in this place and proclaim with Joy this Gospel of hope together as members of a believing community. The faith we share together can support us when our own faith does not measure up, which is why we must be here even when we don’t feel like it or feel too good about ourselves or even God for that matter. Like the servant Jesus talks about today, we remain faithful to God and to one another. The real test of this faith is how we face setbacks and failures and whether or not they make us cry in discouragement or laugh with joyful hope. This, in the end, is the way we stay prepared: living in the present moment true one’s duty and responsibility.
After the final blessing at the end of Mass: One day an old monk was sweeping the floor in the monastery when someone asked him what he would do if he knew he was going to die within the hour. “I’d go on sweeping the floor,” was his reply. In other words, he would just go on attending to the duty of the moment