Sermon: Proper 28 RCL B – “Occupied Time”

The podcast is available here.


Thibodeaux was riding past Boudreaux’s place and saw him out in his cow pasture.  Thibodeaux pulled in and found him still standing in the same spot not moving.  Thibodeaux asks: Boudreaux, what you doing there?  Boudreaux says: I’m tryin’ to win the Nobel Peace Prize my fren!  Thibodeaux: How you gon’ do dat?  Boudreaux: They say all you gotta do is be out standing in your field!

It may work for good ol’ Bou, but for you and I, it turns out we don’t really like standing around doing nothing.  Case in point: the Houston airport.

The New York Times reported that the Houston airport had an overwhelming number of complaints about the long wait at baggage claim.  They did many corrections, including hiring more employees.  Eventually they got the wait time for bags down to an industry low of eight minutes, but the complaints did not cease.  In all their studies, they learned that the airport was very well designed so, on average, it only took travelers one minute to walk from their gate to the baggage claim, leaving seven minutes of standing and staring at a motionless baggage claim carousel.  Those seven minutes were the source of all the complaints (the fact that we get testy after waiting for seven minutes is a sermon for another day).  What did the Houston airport do?  They moved the arrival gates further out so that the walk to baggage claim was longer and the complaints dropped considerably.

The Times reporter found Richard Larson at MIT.  Larson is an expert on the psychology of waiting in lines.  He said, “‘Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself,’ says Larson.  Essentially, we tolerate ‘occupied time’ (for example, walking to baggage claim) far better than ‘unoccupied time’ (such as standing at the baggage carousel). Give us something to do while we wait, and the wait becomes endurable.” (source)  

“Jesus, tell us when you will return.”  “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.”

Wars, earthquakes, famines.  We have had all these things, time and time again, but still we’re like ol’ Boudreaux, standing out in a field waiting for the harvest to come.  We’ve been studying the Book of Revelation and from the looks of things, those four horsemen have been running amuck for centuries, but still nothing.  For some, this wait is like staring at a baggage claim carousel that does not move, leading to impatience and frustration.  But, perhaps for us, this time of waiting is not to be “unoccupied time,” but “occupied time.”  Perhaps this impatience and frustration we experience is not a result of the Lord’s delay, but our own inactivity when we should be performing the work of the Kingdom.

I think of that first Passover, on the night before the tenth plague came upon the Egyptians, and how the Lord explained to Moses how the Passover lamb was to be eaten: “This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord.”  You are not to lounge around and eat this meal slowly.  You are prepared, standing, eating hurriedly, because you are a people of action.  You are embarking on this great journey of salvation and redemption, and we are to do the same.

And notice, I said that in this “occupied time,” we are to be “performing the work of the Kingdom.”  We can find all sorts of occupations and entertainments that fill our time, but if that is all they are – if there is no Kingdom work – then we have simply traded the pearl of great worth for cheap costume jewelry.  We bounce from one entertainment to the next, never revealing Christ to the world or allowing him to transform us into his perfect image.  Therefore, as St. Paul taught us in our second lesson: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We live in the time of the silence, between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder.  So, in the words of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.”

My friend St. Josemaría Escrivá said, “‘I read a proverb which is very popular in some countries: “God owns the world, but he rents it out to the brave’, and it made me think. —What are you waiting for?” (The Furrow, #99)

Let us pray:
Gracious and Holy Father,
Please give us:
intellect to understand you,
reason to discern you,
diligence to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
a spirit to know you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
ears to hear you,
eyes to to see you,
a tongue to proclaim you,
a way of life pleasing to you,
patience to wait for you
and perseverance to look for you.

Grant us a perfect end,
your holy presence,
a blessed resurrection
and life everlasting.

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