Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wake up!

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, November 30, 2008:

“Be watchful! Be alert! Stay awake! You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

Here is a quiz for you. Let’s say you are asleep and dreaming. In your dream, a big lion is chasing you. You try to run away from the lion, only to see a tiger coming right at you. You keep running in a new direction, but no matter where you turn, you find a ferocious animal coming after you. How can you escape? The answer is simple: Wake up.

By waking up you enter a whole new world of reality, different from that of the dream world. What was a huge problem in the dream world becomes a non-issue in the waking world. Dream world concerns lose their importance and new concerns take their place. For example, you discover that your problem is no longer how to escape from wild beasts but how to beat the morning rush and arrive early for work.

As we enter the season of Advent today, we can relate to the change that occurs between a dream state and consciousness. Advent hopes to wake us from or spiritual slumber; to effect a change so that we move from a state of being spiritually asleep to that of being spiritually awake, when the soul is awake and alert not to worldly realities, but to spiritual realities.

In today’s gospel Jesus admonishes and encourages his followers to remain alert in the spirit. He says, “Be watchful! Be alert! Stay awake!” Jesus was preparing to leave His disciples for an uncertain length of time. Through their faith in Jesus, His disciples have roused themselves from a spiritual sleep. But during His absence there is the danger that they might be tempted to doze off. Jesus challenges them to remain awake and watchful so that whenever He comes, He would find them not sleeping but watching in faith, ready to welcome Him.

Today we enter the season of Advent waiting: a time of special preparation for the coming of the Lord. Mark’s portrait of the doorman watching out to open for the Lord whenever he “suddenly” appears is an image of what we are expected to be doing all year long but especially during the season of Advent. The doorman stays awake in order to recognize and welcome the Lord at his coming. Faith, likewise, transforms us into people who are able to recognize the Lord and willing to receive Him. Recognition is crucial because the Lord does not always come in easily recognizable ways. At Bethlehem He came in the form of a newborn child and people did not recognize Him. In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats which we heard last Sunday He said He came to people in the form of the most needy and disadvantaged of this world and many did not recognize Him. But true people of faith did recognize Him and served Him in the neediest people of society. Faith is first and foremost a way of seeing. Once we truly see, it leads us to a way of living.

The “wicked” who were numbered among the goats last week were probably waiting for the final arrival of the Lord, but in their slumber failed to recognize Him in His every day presence. The shocker in that parable is that Christ comes into our lives in the form of the ordinary people and events of our everyday lives. And so, we need to be awake in faith to recognize and serve Christ in these commonplace and routine encounters. It will do us no good to recognize him on Judgment Day if we have not recognized and served Him every day.

The question that needs to be on the heart of every believer today is: Am I awake or asleep? Am I living in a false reality, a dream world of my own making, where things other than God; other than family and faith are most important? If the answer is yes, then “Wake up!” Wake up to the reality that is God in your life. Wake up to the priorities that God has set, so that you may achieve the goal of your faith.

Here are some simple things that we can do to help stay awake:

First, set aside a few moments every day to talk to God – be with Him in spirit and prayer.

Next, look at your family situation. Find the time to pray together as a family. Pray before meals, pray before going to bed, pray anytime that will work for your family – especially if you’ve never done this as a family before.

Thirdly, if you’ve had a falling out with someone, make it your Advent goal to make up with them, find healing and reconciliation. What a gift for the soul that would be.

Fourth, make sure you include the Sacrament of Penance in your Advent preparations. You don’t want to carry your sins into Christmas Day. We have confessions every Wednesday at 7 p.m. during Advent and every Saturday at noon, or you can always ask us after any Mass or make an appointment any time.

Fifth, don’t spend all of your Christmas money on yourself, your family or friends. Instead, make sure you put some of it aside for the poor because what you do for them, you do for Jesus.

Finally, make sure this Advent season is not a season of hurriedness and chaos for you; but instead a time of family, faith and friends. Take the time to enjoy the people around you; the people you love; and those who love you. Advent is a joyful time, so enjoy it!

“Be watchful! Be alert! Stay awake! You do not know when the Lord is coming… May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” Our eyes can always be opened a little more; we can always be spiritually a bit more awake. So, let us pray to open our eyes in faith to see God present and active in our lives and in our world. Let us open our hearts and homes to the Lord who comes to us daily in the form of the needy man or woman. Stay awake and prepare to welcome the Lord during this wondrous season of Advent.

May God give you peace.

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