The Operations Room at RAF Fighter Command’s No. 10 Group Headquarters, Rudloe Manor 1943, Wiltshire, UK. The north coast of France is at the top of the map, the south coast of England and Wales at the bottom, the reverse of what we normally see.
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[Jesus said to his disciples], Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. Luke 12:39.
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Trying to put a modern twist on today’s gospel, I thought of a time of great peril in the history of the world, and the thought of a possible Nazi victory in World War II came to mind. The USA and UK were linked together at that time to defeat a monstrous enemy which was inflicting immense suffering on innocent people all over Europe. The Battle of Britain, where the Nazi air force was intent on destroying the significantly smaller Royal Air Force in order to prepare for an invasion, meant that it was critical to defeat the Luftwaffe. One weapon in the fight which experts say really swung the outcome in favor of the RAF, was radar. Although both sides had radar, the British had developed it much further than the Germans, who thought it was not a significant weapon and chose to downplay it. It is said that without radar, Germany might well have been able to crush the RAF, invade Britain and possibly, even probably, win the war. Why do I mention all this? Because of Jesus’ warning about being alert to danger in today’s gospel. The difference is that the UK did know the hour when the thief was coming, and so the house – the nation – was not broken into and defeated.
But do we have radar locked into our personal defense systems? Are we always scanning the horizon looking for events/people/opportunities which we can recognize as dangerous and might spell disaster? And know for sure that evil is always lurking out there. The devil never misses an opportunity to wreak havoc and pain and suffering wherever it is possible. And know also that we are never alone in confronting such a threat (unless we consciously choose to ignore the strength that God offers to us). God is our sacred, rather than secret, weapon. It is through God’s presence, God’s eyes, that we can identify evil and fight or, better still, avoid it. It was through God’s power and friendship that the Hebrews were released from slavery, seen in today’s first reading. And it was through trust in God that Abraham, in obedience to God’s will, did truly have descendants as many as the stars of the heavens, today’s second reading. So, one might ask, what is there to lose if we seek God’s help, trust in God’s help and follow God’s teaching through everything? The alternative surely leads to suffering or even death. Aren’t we much better off with God as our divine radar, giving us the early warning and advice on what to do? We do of course have the power, freedom, to do whatever we will. The Luftwaffe chose not to destroy the radar antennas which provided the crucial information to the Operations Room in the war. How strange if we on our own, choose to destroy or ignore the teaching, the example or advice which power God’s radar which would silence the warnings coming our way.
Chain Home radar installation at Poling, Sussex, 1945.
What would be the sacred equivalent of this picture? Surely Sacred Scripture, the acts and events of Jesus’ life, the heroism of the saints, the deep-rooted knowledge of what is right and what is wrong embedded in our souls are the answers. Ignoring all that would be the equivalent of destroying the means whereby our knowledge of right and wrong comes to us. And we can destroy all that; human weakness or foolishness knows no bounds. We are free as God’s children to do whatever we wish. But if we wish fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction, there is only one way, the way which overcomes evil and admits grace.
Saint Michael Overthrowing the Demon, Raphael 1518, Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.
Reflections on next Sunday’s Mass Readings will be posted on Wednesday.
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