“Beware. Keep alert.”
I picture a billboard with flashing neon lights. Jesus is obviously trying to get our attention as we hear hear these words twice more, in the middle and again at the end again at the end of this passage; “Stay awake.”* Something important is happening: our salvation. God is reaching down to rescue us, to bring us to himself. Why does he repeat himself though? I figure it is because he knows that we are a distracted people; the prophet Isaiah talks about how, in our freedom, we so easily turn from God and harden our hearts. In the schedules of our lives we easily get distracted and over-complicate our lives. But our lives need not be complicated. We are only asked to do the will of God in every moment. Most of the time this is simply in the normal duties of life; in our relationships and responsibilities, in our families and friendships, with those we meet, living Christian charity.
The prophet Isaiah goes on to say, “No eye has seen any God, besides you, who works for those who wait for him.”* But the key here is that we are waiting! In this context it is used in reference to an action. Waiting for God is an action, an action we carry out in the duties of our lives. We also see here that God is working for us. St.Paul supports this in his letter to the Corinthians, as he knowledges that, “The grace of God has been given [us]… in every way we have been enriched… so that [we] are not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”* He has not left us on her own to figure it out. We lack nothing and he alone will strengthen us. He indeed, “tear[s] open the heavens and come[s] down,”* to our aid, if we but seek Him. He makes himself real to us, and visible to us in a couple ways; Through the sacraments(tangible signs of His grace): in confession we are able to heal and repair the separation caused by our faults and choices, and in the Eucharist, Christ’s very life in us. He also makes Himself visible in those around us. We meet Christ in each other(Matt 25.40).
As we begin our journey this Advent, let us reflect on our own alertness as we contemplate the mystery and the gifts God has given us to free us from distraction, to draw us closer to him, and help us to reach out to those around us. And if it helps, picture that flashing billboard “Keep alert. Stay awake!”
* Excerpts taken from the readings for the First Sunday of Advent:
Isaiah 63.16b-17; 64.1,3-8
1 Corinthians 1.3-9