Sybil 2001

Gospel text

Luke 3: 1-6

1 In the year fifteen of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 at the time of the high priest Annas and Caiaphas, a word of God was heard in the desert in the person of John, son of Zechariah. 3 And he was walking around the Jordan, preaching a baptism which would involve a new life positioning and a liberation from all his faults. 4 As it is written in the Bible where these words of the prophet Isaiah are found:

A voice cries in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make the paths that lead to him straight. 5 one will fill any ravine and one will level out any mountain or hill, just as one will make right what is sinuous and smooth the rugged roads. 6 So every human being can see the liberation brought by God. "

The future is already in the present

Gospel commentary - Homily

How to prepare for the surprises of life?

It is typical of our own life that we are facing surprises or events that we have not seen coming. As we speak, there is a search for experienced mountaineers, missing in the mountains of western Canada: their kayak capsized. If we knew what was ahead of us, would not we act differently? I work as a manager, one of whose job is to manage risk. But how can we handle what is unexpected? Who of us knows when and how he will die? We have trouble guessing some elements of our next day. So why does this Sunday's Gospel give us the invitation to "prepare the way of the Lord", when this Lord is also presented as the one who upsets our lives and surprises us?

One can think that since the unexpected is unpredictable, it escapes all preparation. Nothing more wrong. Who has not been facing exams in school? Oh! of course! Surprises are unequal values. But, as a general rule, one can check the degree of preparation. The same rule applies to job interviews. We distinguish between people who are ready and those who are not. The same rule applies to the various challenges that life launches. Why did we refuse it one day, accepted it the other day? In one case we were not ready, in the other case, yes. We can feel deep inside us the development of maturity that makes us more and more apt to leave the fragility of the child to face the vagaries of life.

Unfortunately, this maturing to live the unforeseeable is not an automatic process. An example? There has been much talk in the newspapers about the collapse of a repair viaduct that killed one person in the northern suburbs of Montreal. Of course, having known that the vibrations of the cars and the wind would have moved the concrete beams, we would have intervened. However, the verdict of the investigation was severe: lack of communication between different groups, lack of supervision of a junior engineer. Do you think there was a lack of communication just the day before the accident, or was it the first time that we did not care about good mentorship? We let go a first time, then a second time, and in the end, it became a corporate culture. The attitude that would have been necessary to face the unforeseen no longer existed.

The Gospel tells us that Jesus, at the time of Tiberius Caesar, opened himself to something new, the preaching of John the Baptist. He was ready, the obstacles had already been removed. How did he prepare? Unfortunately, we know almost nothing about his private life. But it seems to me that one could take over what is said to people who are preparing for retirement: something that you did not do before your retirement, you will not do more when you retire. I have no hold on the future, but only on the present. If I'm open today, I'll be open tomorrow. If I love today, I will love tomorrow. And even if I do not know anything about my death, this death will be a mirror of my life.

That is why it is urgent to change as of today our mindset, as Jesus so often repeats. A real story illustrates it. One day, a woman, patient of a psychiatrist, in a moment of madness, swallows a full line of medicine in a gulp to put an end to her situation. But in a last burst of life, she grabs the phone, of pain and misery dials the number of his psychiatrist and, in the absence of response, stammers her name in the voicemail. Everything seems finished, and her mind gets confused more and more. But very soon after, this psychiatrist calls back, and while she managed to pick up the handset, he talks to her constantly to keep her awake while asking for the dispatch of paramedics. She was saved and, to express her gratitude, wrote a letter in the newspaper to tell the whole story. Everything held in the care that took someone to return a call. Do you think this was the first time this psychiatrist had bothered to return a call and cared for a patient? But behind this returned call, there are all these other calls eagerly returned day after day.

I do not know the future and no doubt life has many surprises in store for me. However, in my daily attitude and the decisions that I take today, I can remove the barriers that Isaiah is talking about and thus enlarge my capacity to welcome what will be given to me. Jesus has no other secret to share with us than this one.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, August 2003