The “Divine Burglar”
31 August 2017
The Gospel of Matthew (24:42f) proclaims the mystery of death – as a definitive encounter with Christ:
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.
‘Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.'”
One possible interpretation of this parable is that Jesus himself is the “divine burglar.” I say one possible interpretation, because as you know, the texts of scripture have various levels of meaning. And this for a variety of reasons that we needn’t go into here.
As the parable makes clear, there is a need to “stay awake” since the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect. Death is like this. It comes at an hour we cannot possibly predict – even in the midst of grave illness. My experience as a priest confirms this truth. And thank God we don’t know the hour or day. We’d go mad if we did.
And now Jesus as “divine burglar.” This is quite fascinating, don’t you think? Forget the negative connotation. Focus instead on what the burglar is after.
A burglar breaks in to the house and heads straight for the safe to liberate the treasure. He’s expert at this. Done it before with great precision and skill. Will do it again.
That’s it. The “divine burglar” is after the treasure. And the treasure is you and me.
We know from other parables and teachings of Jesus that God is relentless in his search for us. The Old Testament, too, has this idea that God is a jealous God and deeply desires each one of us.
But here Jesus lets us in on another dimension of his desire for us. God is not only relentless, but clever and adept at winning our hearts.
I like this theology. For despite my gifts and energies, I won’t cope with death. I’ll need my “divine burglar” to come and visit me at that unexpected moment.
“Lord,” I pray, “help me to welcome you with open arms and tender heart when that hour inevitably arrives.” Amen.