Once upon a time a young man dozes off in a Church. He suddenly wakes up to hear the preacher say: “stand on your feet I will pray for you!” The young man jumps up only to discover that he is the only one standing and people started to look at him in a strange way. The preacher sees him standing and says “keep standing… I know there are still other people in this church, let me repeat, if you know that you are involved in ritual killing stand on your feet I will pray for you!”
In the Second Reading today (Romans 13:11-14a) St. Paul advises his audience in Rome and all of us that it is the hour to wake from sleep. He goes further to note that our salvation is nearer, the night is gone and the day is at hand. We can summarize this instruction with one word, vigilance.
To be vigilant means to be awake and alert to one’s immediate environment especially with regards to danger; this has to do with the physical space. The threats of terrorism have changed the human society in a very dramatic way. Around and in our airports, malls, and other public places security personnel are constantly on alert. In fact, everyone is advised to be vigilant in those locations because of a possible terror attack.
Another sense of the word is spiritual vigilance, and it means being at alert to spiritual values. We can understand this more if we read the First Letter of Peter (5:8) where he says: “Be calm but vigilant.” During the agony in the garden, our Lord says to Peter, James, and John: “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt.26:41). In the Book of Revelation (3:2), one of the messages to the Church in Sardis says: ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.
Today is the First Sunday of Advent, and we have entered into a new liturgical semester; cycle A. The word Advent means “future coming.” The Advent Season is there a time we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in three centers of gravity.
• His coming at as a new born king at Christmas.
• His constant coming into our lives in particular through the word and the sacrament
• His final coming on the last day which according to St. Paul would be like the coming of a thief (1 Thess.5:2).
The Advent period this year begins with the clarion call on all of us to be vigilant; to be on alert. Being vigilant should be a significant part of our Christian life as soldiers (2 Tim.2:3-4). The need to be vigilant does not mean idly looking up to the skies. It is rather a form of vigilance that involves regenerating spiritual activities. In the Second Reading, St. Paul spells it out when he advises that we should “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” He is, in order words, telling us about the inner transformation we need which involves repentance and a decision to live a good life.
In the Gospel Reading (Matt. 24:37-44) our Lord Jesus Christ advances the instruction on spiritual vigilance. He begins by reinforcing the fact that His Second Coming will be eventful as the deluge during the time of Noah. If we cast our minds back to the time of Noah, we can recall that the people at that time did not pay attention to the instructions of God about the impending flood. They preferred to eat, drink and marry to any other thing. The question we could ask is “do we not have the same disposition in our day and age?
In our contemporary human society people prefer to listen to technology (the modern food, drink, and marriage) to listening to the word of God. As the people mocked Noah at that time, individuals in the contemporary age mock the good news through their apathy and preference to worldly pleasures. In fact, people are more vigilant about their bodies than their souls.
In the Gospel, our Lord notes that two individuals would be at different locations, but only one of each pair would survive the selection exercise. Those who would pass the screening exercise are only the vigilant; those who stay awake.
The Advent is a holy season. It is the time for spiritual vigilance. It is a time to wake up from our spiritual slumber and to cast off the works of darkness in our lives. St. Paul advises us in his First Letter to the Thessalonians to be sure not to fall asleep as others do but to keep awake and be sober (5:6).
May every day of this season of Advent be for you a great opportunity to be spiritually vigilant so that when the Lord comes He will find you properly armored with His light. May you be among the ones that will find favour at Lord’s coming.
Have a great Advent Season and may your blessings increase.