31 August 2006: Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time
1 Cor 1, 1-9; Matthew 24, 42-51: Preparation Time
Have you ever spent a lot of energy preparing for a trip, a career, a wedding or a birthday party, the birth of a baby, or a house? If you have, then perhaps you know what it means to prepare. When we prepare for some event, that event usually takes place for a few hours. An exam takes about an hour and a half; a party takes about 4-6 hours; a basketball game takes around 3 hours. However, the preparation time takes days, weeks and months. The success of that brief moment depends on the energy and the time we have spent planning and preparing all the ingredients for that perfect date. The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well.
A baseball coach once rebuked a confident player who said their team would win because it had ‘the will to win.’
“Don’t kid yourself,” said the coach. “The will to win is important, but it isn’t worth a penny unless you also have the will to prepare.”
The story intensifies at crucial moments in life. While preparing for a board or a bar exam, many people do come to mass to pray for miracles. In the course of studying and reviewing, we are sometime overwhelmed by our own anxieties. These are events that we know will greatly affect our lives. And at the very center of the preparation, we encounter many difficulties: frustration, disappointments, hopelessness, panic, etc. Harold S. Kushner once said that, “people who pray for miracles usually don’t get miracles... But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered. Their prayers helped them tap hidden reserves of faith and courage that were not available to them before.”
It is important that in preparing we keep our eyes focused on the vision, or else we do things directionless and meaningless. Why am I doing this? To whom is this for? But faith tells us that the consolation lies on the fact that the journey began with God, the journey is done accompanied by God, and the destination is also God. St. Ignatius teaches us a preparatory prayer which we pray at all times. It is a prayer done before a prayer period in a retreat, before a meeting begins, before a class starts, or before anything else. This is taken from the Spiritual Exercises:
“Direct O Lord all my actions, and carry them on by your gracious assistance so that in every prayer and work of ours may begin from you and by you be happily ended. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”