30 Aug, Tuesday of Week 22
1 Thess 5:1ff. The day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. We belong to the day and ought to remain awake and alert.
Lk 4:31ff. On the sabbath Jesus instructs in the synagogue with authority and drives out demons. The people are spellbound by his teaching and astonished at his power.
For most of us life plods along without much excitement. Routine becomes the pace of every day. Wise old Solomon admitted this fact: “What has been, will be; what has been done, will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new’ has already existed in former ages” (Eccl 1:9-10). This normal day-to-day monotony was so true, that he twice again returned to the statement (Eccl 3:15; 6:10). The famous opening lines of his book, usually translated, “Vanity of vanity. All things are vanity” (Eccl 1:2), would read more literally, “Air. Air. All is but a puff of air.”
The sages in the sapiential books like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes want things to stay normal, conservative and controlled – as most of the time they do; but it is the times when they do not that make such a difference in our lives. These are the vital, crucial transitions when routine is broken and we are turned in another direction. Some transitions can be carefully planned, like marriage or priesthood or religious life, like graduation from school or acceptance of an offer for work, like a decision to remain at home with one’s dependent parents or to move away to live more independently. Other transitions hit us “like a thief in the night.” Unplanned as it may be, the event changes our life. These can be physically devastating like a heart attack or a death in a family, or they may be happy events like a pregnancy or finding a new friend.
At all such surprising moments, whether they surprise us with joy or with sadness, we are given important advice from Scripture. First of all, Paul instructs us: “All of you are children of light and of the day. We belong neither to darkness nor to night.” Often, what happens unexpectedly has been lurking in the shadows of our character. It can be a healthy purification to come clean and be out with it. But we cannot arrive at the truth without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.
Even if we revolt against the change in our lives, we are never in a hopeless bind. Suddenly on any sabbath day Jesus comes into our midst, instructing us and driving out our “devil” of fear and anger. We are “spellbound by his teaching, for the words have authority.” Jesus speaks to our heart and opens the dark reserves of our unconscious. We are “struck with astonishment as he commands the unclean spirit with… power.” Through Scripture and prayer, through homilies and advice, we are in Jesus’ presence. A new quiet descends on us and we may even welcome a new stretch of routine or even monotony.
First Reading: 1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.
He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.