Lk 21: 5-19
When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?”
And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.
“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. This will give you an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.
You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
By failing to prepare we are preparing to fail. This truth is sound and especially well taken this time of year when students like me are nearing the end of the semester. Exams are about to crash upon us, so we plan accordingly, study hard, place post-it notes all over our desks and reminders on our calendars. There is wisdom in neatly laying out our arguments beforehand. Thus, it is jarring that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we are not to prepare a defense in advance. Why does he say this? My hunch is that bearing witness of our relationship with Jesus before others is not like cramming for an exam. If we’ve accepted Jesus into our lives, walked alongside and shared our life with him persistently, there is no need for prepared responses. All we need to do in that climactic moment is lean upon him once again, trusting that the intimacy already created has made it such that when we open our mouth, his are the words that are spoken.
Jesus, Savior of the world, God is in you and you are in me;
I am yours and you are mine;
Make it so that when I open my mouth, it is your voice that speaks.
—Christopher Alt, SJ