Sunday Thoughts: Preparing to Prepare

I am not going to talk about the election. What will happen is completely out of my power to influence and I don’t think my, what, five readers have much influence either, or particularly care what I have to say on the subject.

There was a surprisingly good homily at Mass today (my present situation is, and has been for a while, very unsettled, so I’m not part of a parish and have two or three churches that I attend depending on schedule): on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and the need to be prepared for the coming of Christ. The priest pointed out that so many of us spend our lives, as he put it, ‘preparing to prepare.’ We’re not going to prepare to meet Christ – or to start a new career or make major amendments to our lifestyles or what have you – today, but we’ll start tomorrow. Except tomorrow is always tomorrow and today is always today, so we never actually start preparing. There’s always jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.

The difficult part of any endeavor, at least for me, is getting it through my head that today actually is different, or could be. It’s a self-reinforcing pattern: everything today seems much the same as yesterday, triggering the same responses. If we follow those well-worn paths, they will further make today seem much the same as yesterday. The cost of amendment is the discomfort of doing things differently with no guarantee how they will turn out. But there are never any guarantees in this life, only the illusion that things will continue to go on much as they have done. Since the bridegroom hasn’t shown up in the past hour, it’s odds-on he won’t show at all. No sense wasting time buying oil.

But today is not yesterday. Today is an absolutely unique creation. November 8th, 2020 never has been and never will be again. There is no reason at all it cannot be the beginning of a new life, the day when the preparations truly begin. It’s difficult to rewrite our programming (read: to change habits), but again, that discomfort is the cost of amendment. We always must die a little to come to new life.

Trust no Future, howe’re pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, – act in the living Present!
Heart within and God o’erhead!

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow