“Are you waiting for a personal invitation?” Those were my dad’s words when we ignored my mom’s call to supper. If we wanted to eat, we didn’t wait for him to say it twice.
As a kid I had a tendency to move when I was good and ready. This was especially true when it was to do something that someone else wanted rather than something I wanted. I never understood why others got upset about that. There always seemed plenty of time to me. My usual response to others’ urgings was, “What’s your rush.” It took me years to realize that I needed to care for others’ needs.
Those who think that God is nastier than most humans tell us not to put off the good we can do because God is impatient and vindictive and will get us. On the other hand, folks who look for real-world reasons for virtue realize that when there’s something good we can do or something bad we can cease doing, real people are depending on us to get our act together. Morality is about people’s needs. How we act or don’t act affects others.
There’s a self-serving element to making God’s imagined anger the ultimate reason to avoid self-centeredness. That supposed consequence of our choice remains out there in another realm that can be ignored – at least for the time being. As the young St. Augustine supposedly prayed about his lack of chastity, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”
Maturity – and honesty – leads us to realize that the problem with doing evil or neglecting to do good is that we are betraying someone.
The season of Advent is a reminder that we can’t afford to ignore other people who depend on us. And that, in one way or another, is everyone: especially the poor and powerless.
We can’t make those who depend on us call us repeatedly. They may not be able to.