In many images, Jesus stresses the importance of being ready, of preparation, of vigilance on our part. We are cautioned to be about our responsibilities when the master of the house comes home; we are advised to lay up our treasures in heaven, to maintain reserves of oil for our lamps, to invest our resources wisely. And there are many others. The images vary, but they are all embellishments on the same thought. That thought is of the danger – the daily danger – of reclaiming authority over ourselves from Christ.

I speak of the danger as being daily, but of course it is ever-present, rendering significant every breath, every action. Does that sound extreme? Yes, but so it must be, lying as it does at the pinnacle of spiritual significance. In those lofty regions, withholding eye contact from a panhandler can constitute as great an omission as Israel returning to idolatry.

Does that impose too great a burden on our conscience? Yes, of course, far too great for us to bear alone. That’s why Jesus bore our sins, and asks that we yolk to Him.

But doesn’t it render us abject and timid, shrinking from responsibility?

Only if you would say the same of a toddler learning to walk and relying on its parent’s steadying hand. And that is the very heart of the problem: We challenge the eagle, when we have not yet even learned to walk.

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