“Two thousand years and he ain’t showed yet” runs a 10cc song. Jesus’ warnings about being ready in the middle of the night seem to have anticipated precisely this waiting. Down through the centuries these words have rung. The devastating familial breakdown at the end of the reading is a direct quote from Micah 7. It relates to non-complicity in ‘wickedness’, waiting for the Day of the Lord. The answer, of course, is not to speculate, but to live each day as a holy day, aware of Christ’s presence with us at all times through his Holy Spirit. So our task, then, is to cultivate this good soil.
Now recovered from her illness, Aelfflaed meets her dear Cuthbert at the mouth of the Coquet river on the Northumberland coast. She draws from him the prophecy of her brother’s death, King Ecgfrith, which must have been playing on her mind, knowing his combative temperament. Going further, she elicits the name of his successor, her bastard half-brother, Aldfrith, then in exile studying theology in the Irish monasteries. But she knows, too, that her brother wants Cuthbert as his bishop in preference to Wilfrid (of Whitby Synod fame), with whom he (and many others) had fallen out. Wilfrid was the opposite of Cuthbert, loving the pomp and ostentation of the office, travelling to Rome to get papal backing every time he lost his position. The synod, held later that year, unanimously appointed Cuthbert as bishop, but there can be few bishops in the history of the church as reluctant as Cuthbert. He rejects all the letters and messengers sent to him, until even the king had to sail to Farne and get on his knees, begging him to agree. Eventually Cuthbert acquiesces, but in tears, and is consecrated the following Easter. So different to Wilfrid.