1st Sunday of Advent
December 2, 2018
I am taken by the words “Be vigilant” in today’s gospel.
In this passage, Jesus uses some frightening imagery. There will be signs in the stars, nations in dismay, tribulations, and people dying.
These images are a literary style of Jesus’ day and they are not intended to make us afraid or fearful. Instead, to use Jesus’ words, he wants us to “be vigilant.”
My reflection on this has led me to three words that capture what it means to be vigilant. Each of these begins with the letter “A”: Awake, Alert, and Aware.
I see a difference in what each of these words means. And I also see them in a definite order, with one leading to the other.
1. Be Awake
So first, be awake.
Jesus cautions us not to “become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.” So, on a basic level, don’t get caught in any substance abuse that just deadens us to what is going on in life.
Beyond that, don’t get caught in living for the latest electronic tablet or kitchen appliance or clothing style. And don’t get trapped into being so busy with our jobs and into making so many other commitments that we are always running and always exhausted.
All of these possibilities in today’s lifestyle can make us asleep to life. They can lull us into unconscious living.
So, it is important to grab hold of these things. It is important to try to gain control of them.
Be awake to life and to living each day of life consciously and intentionally. And being awake in this way takes us to the next step of being vigilant.
2. Be Alert
This means to notice the persons in our lives, especially our family and friends. Be alert to what is going on with them – maybe your son has become withdrawn and seems down and you need to be there for him.
Notice the neighbor next door. Be alert to her illness or relationship problem and to what a few minutes of our time might do for her.
Notice the needs in our parish or community. Be alert to how we might assist someone, maybe by taking an ornament from the Christmas Giving Tree and buying gloves or sweaters or jeans for a family in need.
And notice the big picture of our country and our world. Be alert to something we could say that would be constructive and that lessens fear and negative energy.
So be alert to the persons and situations around us. And being alert in this way takes us to the third step in being vigilant.
3. Be Aware
This means to look within ourselves. Be aware of how well we are living.
Look, as Saint Paul says today, at our feelings for others. Be aware of our feelings of respect or disdain, jealousy or acceptance.
Look at our quiet time versus our talking and noise time. Be aware if we are making space for an inner life, for being in touch with ourselves, with our hopes and worries, with our inner peace or unsettledness, with our loving of others and feelings of being loved.
Look at our relationship with God. Be aware if it is minimalist, just putting in time for Sunday Mass, or if it is more than that, really putting ourselves into the Mass and also making time for personal prayer during the week.
So, be aware of ourselves, of what is going on and how we may need to grow. This may lead us to a sense of repentance and fresh resolve, and it will definitely be the crowning and completion of being vigilant.
This is the approach I am seeing for Advent.
Jesus tells us to “Be vigilant”and I see these three words that begin with the letter “A” – just like the word Advent – as helping us to do this. Be Awake, Alert, and Aware.