It’s an age old question, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ Or in a more modern setting, ‘if there was a God, why do innocent people suffer?’ The stock answer was, ‘they must have deserved it.’ But Jesus will have none of it. Instead, once again, he uses it in exactly the same way as he does the parables of the thief in the night and the master returning home – be ready each day for you never know when your end will come. Or paraphrasing the 17thC Anglican Divine, Jeremy Taylor, you can’t live a holy life until you are ready for a holy death; only when death has lost its power over you will you be truly free to live.
Cuthbert and Eata had a long and close relationship. Eata was Abbot of Melrose when Cuthbert first came in from the world. When he founded the monastery at Ripon, he took Cuthbert with him as his guestmaster. When they were kicked out (to make way for Wilfrid) they went back to Melrose together. On his way back to Farne from a visit to Eata, now his bishop, in Melrose, one of Ecgfrith’s close warrior companions, a gesith who had probably travelled to Farne with Ecgfrith to persuade Cuthbert to become bishop, asks him to come and heal his gangrenous servant, under the guise of asking for a blessing on his household. Another eyewitness story.