Awake – Jett Villarin, SJ

Matthew 24:37-44, First Sunday of Advent

“Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”

Today starts Advent. And Advent begins with a warning that seems almost like Russian roulette with one bullet in a two-bullet chamber gun. The point is not that we have a 50-50 chance of making it. I think the point is that we are only awake half the time or half-awake most of the time.

Perhaps our wakefulness is to many concerns that are only half so important in God’s eyes. And so Advent is this time to reflect and ask: What perks us up? What holds our attention? What keeps us awake?

As we start Advent, God invites us not to sleep on at least three things: our present, our mortality, and God our destiny.

Sleeping on our present, we sometimes find ourselves more awake to the past, living in guilt and regret, disabled somehow from forgiving others and ourselves. Or we’d rather be more awake to a future the uncertainty of which only plunges us into fear and anxiety.

On mortality, it is understandable that we don’t want this dagger always hanging over our lives. But to forget our mortality is to numb ourselves to all that is human about us. As was once remarked, “some people live as if they are never going to die, some die as if they have never lived.”

Thirdly, we need to be awake to God our destiny. We hardly think of destiny in the day-to-day. We tend to see destiny as sometime in the future. To wake up to God now is to realize God is not for the back burner nor should God be something postponable.

How are we to remain awake to the present? By not wasting time on things that have expired (the past), nor on things that have a short shelf life (the transient). By not being consumed by a future of collapsed possibilities, a future that is yet to unfold.

And so to stay awake, we will savor the ride, relish who are right here beside us, celebrate the present, taking to heart the refrain from the song of Seals and Crofts: we may never pass this way again.

The present is its own grace. Let us take care not to miss the graciousness of just being here. Let us train our hearts to see goodness as God in Genesis saw goodness. There is goodness in things just coming to be, in the utter simplicity of being.

How are we to remain awake to our mortality? One way is to go to the cemetery. Or pick up falling leaves. Trees outlive us but even trees do not live forever. Watch the sunset until stars come out at night. Stars and suns outlive us but even stars do not live forever.

If we are young, it helps to spend time with people who are in the twilight of their lives. The gift of old people is the gift of time. When we are young, the runway seems long; time is plenty and cheap. It takes time to value time. And so while we are young, we will train our hearts  not to be wasteful of our time or the time of others.

And if we are old, we will not stop living. After all, life is received and meant to be given. We will not give up on ourselves. We will not die as if we have never lived. Even as diminishment can sap our hope, we know it can also train us to be humble and grateful; it can pare us down to what may only enrich us.

Lastly, how are we to remain awake to God our destiny? By heeding Isaiah’s invitation in the first reading: “Come let us climb the Lord’s mountain.” On this mountain, people “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”. We remain awake to God when we suffer ourselves to live for peace, when we train not for war or hate or injustice.

To stay awake to God is to cultivate friendship with God, one-on-one, finding solace in solitude, wasting time with God in prayer, seeking God not just in the wonderful, dramatic or miraculous, but finding God even in the unlikeliest places, the little ordinary things.

Today starts Advent. Time now sleepy head to wake up. Wake up to our present, to our mortality, and to God our destiny. This is how we prepare our manger for eternity.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Sally Abelarde says:

    Praise God Lord of the moment , of endless eternity. Thank God for Fr Jett and his signature timely homily🙏🙌😇🌈


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