Visiting a prison one day, I had one-on-one encounter with one of the inmates who had a very pathetic story to share. Innocent (not the real name) told me that he had being in prison for four years running on account of a gruesome robbery incidence in a household where he worked as a night watchman. On the fateful day he narrated that he was awake listening to his transistor radio that was featuring one of his favourite programmes. The night was indeed peaceful until he heard what sounded like a gun shot. He switched off the radio to ascertain where the sound came from. Before he could do anything meaningful, he was surrounded by gun men (armed robbers).
Innocent was awake enjoying his favourite radio programme when the armed robbers entered the house he was supposed to be guarding from the rear (back) and skilfully entered through the window of an empty store room and from there, gained entrance to the living room and consequently to all the rooms. They quietly gathered all the members of the household together and disposed them of their valuables. The father of the house was trying to stop one of them from beating his only son who was not attending to their directives, when one of them shot at the man’s leg supposing that he wanted to attack his mate. It was at that point that Innocent realised that there was a situation and before he could do anything, the gang became apprehensive and rushed out to have him festered before making a quick exit.
When the police came for investigation, Innocent became the number one suspect. It has hard for the household to hand him over to the police because he had been conscientious in his duties and had never flouted any rule in the house both human and divine. However the police argued that Innocent was supposed to be not only AWAKE but also AWARE of what was going on around the house. They concluded that if Innocent had been AWARE of his environment he would have spotted the armed robbers when they were trying to gain entrance into the house from the rear.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. The word advent from its Latin root means “future coming”. Hence the season of Advent is a time of great expectation of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. This expectation is spiced by intense longing. The closest description of this can be found in the letter of St. Paul to the Romans (8:19) where he talked about earnest waiting. It is not mere coincidence that we are being introduced to a new liturgical year with the call to be expectant. Today begins a new year in the Church’s calendar and we could rightly say “happy new year” to ourselves. We have entered into the 1st Year (A) of the Church’s calendar which is being ushered in with the Advent period. Significantly, we are anticipating the coming of Jesus Christ and we understand this in three senses:
- His coming more than two thousand years ago. (Which we commemorate).
- His immanent and continual coming into our lives. (The Christian life in an on-going advent).
- His glorious second coming at the end of time. (The parousia).
Today we have two indispensable principles that are mutually beneficial: “AWAKENNESS” AND AWARENESS. To be awake is known as rousing from sleep. It is a form of brain activity which is opposite of sleep; one who is awake is simply not sleeping; it can thus be said that it is a non-sleeping mode. To be aware on the other hand is to have knowledge or cognizance of something. It involves understanding, comprehension, apprehension, grasping. Basically it is one thing to be awake and yet another to be aware of what is happening. Often times many people who are awake still do not know what is happening and like Innocent in our story they end up paying dearly for it. Our “AWAKENNESS” becomes productive and resourceful when it leads us to AWARENESS!
In the Second Reading of today (Romans 13:11-14) St. Paul began the discussion about the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the need to be awake and aware of/to that. In the passage, the apostle established the fact of the nearness of the salvific moment and the need to be awake and aware. It takes diligence and deep advertence to see the need to be awake (the night is far gone and the day is near) to be aware, by laying aside the works of darkness and putting on the armour of light; Christ himself (13:12).
In the Gospel Reading, our Lord Jesus Christ made a more appealing description with regards to being awake and aware of his Second Coming. Our Lord spoke about the setting aside that will take place which actually makes a distinction between those who are just awake and those who are awake and also aware:
Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. (Matt. 24:40-41).
In the two instances, the individuals involved were all awake but not all were aware. In the field the one taken was the one awake and aware; just like among the two women grinding meal together, the one that was taken was the one that was awake and aware.
Being awake and aware would help us to discover the MOUNTAIN of the Lord as we saw in the oracle of Isaiah (2:1-5). Isaiah mentioned that this mountain shall be established as the highest of the mountains, an indication that there are other mountains. Being awake and aware would help us to make the most wonderful choice of going to the mountain of the Lord rather than wasting our time with other worthless mountains that may be competing for our attention this season. The mountain of the Lord is the place that will make much difference for us. A place of learning and instructions (2:3), a place of right judgement (2:4), a place of transition from war to peace where weapons of war become productive implements. for
The advent period is auspicious enough for us to take some time to reflect on our lives and the necessary spiritual expectations. There is no doubt that many of us are awake to the season of advent but not all of us are aware of the prerequisites of the season. Many of course are awake to the fact that the Christmas season is close but only a few are aware that this period is a holy season that requires apt spiritual preparation for the coming of the saviour of the world. It is most unfortunate that we are often more aware of ourselves; the things we need, how to make our material lives more comfortable than we are aware of Jesus Christ without whom life becomes worthless.
As we launch into this important season of Advent let us pay particular attention to the last verse of the Gospel Reading of today where our Lord Jesus Christ clearly admonished us not to allow ourselves the joke of being taken unawares like the master of the house who didn’t know when the thief would break into the house. The message here still revolves around being not just awake but also aware. Now someone may rightly ask “how can I be aware” The answer to this is not far-fetched. We have to be aware not by physical efforts but by simply activating the theological virtues of faith, hope and love and love surely is the greatest handle in this framework (1 Cor.13:13).
Have a most rewarding season of Advent and let the season bring more positive and effectually transforming moments in your life as you remain awake and aware. You are awesomely blessed.