Are you ready?
The wise bridesmaids in Jesus’ parable are ready when the bridegroom comes. They have foresight and plan appropriately, and so can follow the bridegroom into the banquet hall. They are ready.
Or were they? Or, rather, is this readiness?
In his retreat address on “Readiness,” our founder, Fr. Benson, sounds a seemingly odd note. Readiness is doing your best under the circumstances that face you—which may mean that you fail. It may mean you fail most of the time. But, Fr. Benson continues, “it may be that [your] failure is the way in which most is to be done. It may be that [you] will effect more than another person who might have brought some natural gift to the work and have succeeded in it.”
Readiness, then, is not the preparation and training for success, but rather the presentness of our attention and the immediacy of our response to God’s call. This kind of readiness would have seen wisdom not in bringing extra lamp oil, but in waiting on the bridegroom—waiting and trusting that what he sought was not a lit lamp but a listening heart.
Today begins the Season of Creation. We join with Christians around the world to lament our individual and collective failures to care for God’s Creation, to pray for the healing and renewal of our relationship with other creatures, and to add our voices to theirs in praising the Creator of all: “The Lord is King,” we sing together with all creation, “let the earth rejoice” (Ps 97:1).
The sheer scope of the climate crisis’s impact on both the natural world and human communities, many of which are already socially and economically vulnerable, may lead us to despair that any action we take will matter, will effect change. The emergency daunts us, not just because of its vast scale but also our comparable smallness. Who are we to take it on? We don’t have the expertise or the stature. We haven’t prepared adequately. We aren’t ready, and we may despair that we are destined to fail.
But readiness isn’t about getting it right, of being prepared, of succeeding. It’s about attending to and responding to God’s call, of being present to what God is saying to us now—even if we don’t feel up to it, even if we fear that we’ll fail. In this Season of Creation, God moves us, God prompts us, to pray, to learn, to act, to advocate. God meets us where we are and invites us to partake of God’s blessing and renewal of the whole of Creation. All we need do is listen and respond.
Are we ready?
 R. M. Benson, “Readiness,” in Instructions on the Religious Life, third series (London and Oxford, 1951), 93. This was a retreat address to the (all-male) Society; for this sermon, I have updated the bracketed pronouns from “he/his” to “you/your.”
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