How often does someone lose concentration or doze off whilst driving and only just manage to get control of the car before a fatal accident occurs? Our spiritual life is like driving a car. We can be going about our business, attempting to live our faith, but taking things for granted. Warning signs are often ignored. And suddenly, we fall spiritually asleep, missing the opportunities the Lord provides for us to experience His Presence, His Love and Compassion. Sometimes we get so involved in what we are doing that we forget why we are doing it. Or we can be so determined to reach out to Christ in strangers and experience His Presence in those whom we do not know, that we ignore His Presence in our brother and sister, our parents or our children, and of course ourselves.
“Stay awake” is the theme for this First Sunday of Advent. The Master of the house is the Lord. His coming is at the end of our lives to determine our capacity to receive an infinite share of His love. If He comes and finds us ready and waiting, the door of our life truly open to His Presence, then we have nothing to worry about.
And so, we watch. We watch for the signs of the spiritual in our lives. We watch for the presence of Christ. Without the spiritual, our lives would be self-destructive. Without the spiritual we wander like the people of the first reading from Isaiah. They wandered aimlessly. They got themselves into all sorts of trouble. Possessions, selfishness, arrogance, all dominated their lives and destroyed them. A main theme of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament, is that left to their own devices, people can become self-destructive.
And so we stay awake, and we watch. We watch for the Divine Healer to come and lead us into His Love. We watch for the times when God extends His Love to us. We watch for the times when we serve His Love by serving others. We watch for the opportunities to unite ourselves closer to His Love through prayer and sacrifice. We wait. We watch.
We long for Jesus’ presence. If we deny this need, this necessity for God to be in our lives, then we chance becoming useless shells, Christians on the outside which people see, but not much on the inside. Advent is the season of hope. The promises of the prophets will be fulfilled; that the Messiah will come to return the world to God’s original plan. Our thirst for the Messiah will be quenched not just on 25 December, but every day of our lives.
We wait. We watch. We stay awake.
Fr Michael Manning, O.Carm.