Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 27th June 2021.
I am sure that everyone reading this reflection knows that ‘Be Prepared’ is the motto of the Scouts. Lieut. Gen. Baden Powell, who founded the Scout movement, wrote this in ‘Scouting for Boys’ (1908):
“The scouts’ motto is founded on my initials, it is:
which means, you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY;
Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it.”
[As an aside, I am reminded of a song entitled ‘Be Prepared’, by the satirist, singer-songwriter and mathematician, Tom Lehrer. I can remember discovering him in the 1960s. If you have not come across him before, but are familiar with Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, Tom Lehrer is an American one-man version of Flanders & Swann, but with a more wicked, often outrageous, sense of humour. If you google ‘Tom Lehrer Be Prepared’, you should be able to find a video of him singing the song. I will not set down here any of the lyrics, lest they shock any sensitive minds! Other songs I recall are ‘The Hunting Song’ (very amusing), ‘The Vatican Rag’ (irreverent), ‘I hold your hand in mine, dear’ (macabre) and ‘Poisoning pigeons in the park’ (all of the above!). For the scientifically-minded, ‘The Elements’ is a musical recital of the Periodic Table – an incredible feat of memory. But I digress!]
There are passages in the Bible on the theme of being prepared. For example, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew, Chapter 25:
Jesus spoke this parable to the disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’
At one level, Jesus is having a go at the Jews of his day. They had spent their entire history preparing for the arrival of the Son of God, the Messiah, but they were totally unprepared for him when he arrived, and so shut themselves off from him. On a practical level, Jesus is saying: do what you need to do, before it is too late.
So, for example, if any of us have not made a will (or we made one so long ago that it needs revising) we need to get on with it, before it is too late. Equally, if we have sinned and need to seek forgiveness and make our peace with God, then we need to do so before it is too late. As Jesus says in the above extract from Matthew’s Gospel: “. . . for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Baden-Powell spoke of being prepared in mind and body, but I suggest that we should add being prepared in spirit. We are all aware of the benefits of maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body. But there is another dimension to life – our need to maintain a healthy spiritual relationship with God. Former US President Jimmy Carter summed up the point (and perhaps the point of the parable), when he once said: “We should live our lives as though Christ was coming this afternoon.”
Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States once famously wrote: “… there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.” But those who have a faith know that there are two more certainties: (1) we will each one day have to answer to our maker, and (2) we need to ‘Be Prepared’!