Sunday, 2nd December 2018
Have I told you the story of the Spotted Dog Bar? It’s not a shaggy dog story. It’s a story about a very busy bar in a town in Ireland. Its owners, a husband and wife, don’t live on the premises but a mile or two outside the town. One Friday night after they’d washed up, cleaned up and locked up, they drove home and fell into bed, exhausted. Then about 2 in the morning the phone rings beside their bed and the poor man nearly falls out on top of it: “Yes, what is it?” he groans, and the voice at the other end, slow and slurred, says: “Excuse me, Sir, excuse me, sorry to disturb you but, are you the owner of the Spotted Dog Bar?” And he says, “I am, yes, what do you want?” “I just want to know what time you open in the morning?” And the man tells him and when his wife asks, “Who’s that?” he says, “Oh, just some drunk!”
At six in the morning, the phone rings again. The man answers, again very annoyed because it’s the same voice, only much more slurred: “Sorry for disturbing you! I know you told me, but I forget! What time do you open in the morning?” And the man roars, “Doesn’t matter what time we open because you’re not getting in!” and the voice answers, “Don’t want to get in – just want to get out!” And I can tell you the man wakes up quickly at the thought of ‘your man’ inside downing all his whiskey! He’d have happily released him at 2 in the morning if he’d only known!
This may seem a simple, stupid story but it’s deadly serious. This is what Jesus wants to do for us in the gospel today. He wants to wake us up, shake us up, into seeing what’s important in life and what’s not important. Not to frighten us, but because he loves us. He doesn’t want us to sleep – walk our way through life, thinking we’re going to be here forever. He wants to wake us up to the greed and dishonesty in much of society; to wake us up to the seven deadly tendencies alive and well in our own hearts: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. He also wants to wake us up to how weak and fragile we all are, even the strongest! And wake us up to the reality that we’re not going to be here forever.
I feel my dear sister doesn’t need to hear Jesus’ warnings today because her grandson, Dara, has already issued similar warnings! When he was eight or nine, he was very worried about his Nana because she has many pains and had difficulty keeping the house clean and sparkling as it always was. So, he said to her, “Nana, when I grow up, I’m going to be an engineer and I’ll make you a robot that will do all the work.” But then he looked very serious, thought for a while, and said, “But sure, you won’t be here then! But don’t worry, Nana, I’ll help you during my ‘Transition Year’ – that’s if you’re still here!” Talk about being reminded of your mortality! Talk about being reminded you won’t be around for very much longer! In his innocence, Dara is doing what Jesus is doing today – waking us up, shaking us up to reality! I know you’ll probably say, “Give us a break! We have enough reality! It’s a bit of hope and comfort we need!” That’s true, but I’m sure, too, we don’t want to leave ‘waking up’ till it’s too late.
And I’m saying this to the young and the old and especially myself!