Sunday, November 28th is the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical Church year. Our Parish theme for Advent 2021 is Waiting with Mary and Joseph.
Staying awake can often be a challenge, especially when we are exhausted. Life’s demands have a way of zapping every last bit of energy out of us. When we are tired it affects us not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well. All of our senses are dulled and diminished. We can overlook details, become disinterested, lethargic and apathetic, and detached. Getting sufficient physical rest only helps so much. We need to be rejuvenated, refreshed, and reenergized in other ways. If we are psychologically exhausted, we need to understand what is draining our emotions and taxing our relationships. If we are spiritually tired, we need to find the necessary “shot in the arm” to put us back in touch with God. Unfortunately, exhaustion is seldom limited to just one part of who we are. When we lack energy and zeal it is usually the case that everything suffers. We not only are affected physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well. In short, when we run out of gas the engine stops.
And yet, our Lord’s directive is clear, “Be vigilant at all times.” Even Jesus knew what “the anxieties of daily life” can do to us. One day pours into another and time quickly flies by. Any one of us can take a moment and reflect on how many wonderful, creative opportunities we miss because there is always so much “stuff” to do and so little time to do it. Usually these are missed moments of love, and if we are missing love encounters we are also missing God. Sleepwalking through life, we check the boxes next to our list of “must and have to dos” and justify it all by convincing ourselves that tomorrow is another day and there’ll be more time. It may surprise us, but tomorrow is here, and time is running out. While we may like to believe that we have an “eternity” of time to do all those things that require the focus, energy, and desire we do not currently have, we don’t. We’re on a limited ride and time is short.
Jesus is also clear on another point. “That day [will] catch you by surprise like a trap.” If we are going to be judged on love and so easily justify not having all that much time to do so, then it seems we must shift focus a bit. St. Teresa of Calcutta tells us, “We desire to be able to welcome Jesus at Christmastime, not in a cold manger of our heart, but in a heart full of love and humility, a heart so pure, so immaculate, so warm with love for one another.” Getting to this place doesn’t “just happen.” It requires vigilance and discipline both with a knowledge of what is really of importance and what really needs to be the focus of our energy and time. Pray, starting now and not tomorrow, that we can stay alert, be strengthened in our faith, and prepared for whatever will come. Don’t miss another opportunity to love.