Homily on Staying Awake

Staying Awake

Reflection on “Staying Awake” based on the Gospel of Mark 13:33-37 (1st Sunday of Advent):

Happy New Year! Today – the Church begins a new liturgical year…
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to be alert, to be watchful; to stay awake, so to speak; and in the next few weeks, we are called to take the words of Jesus to heart.

During these weeks of Advent – we are called to spend more time taking account of our lives, examining our consciences….

So – what kind of a year have you had? Take a look back at the last 12 months… What stands out?

What is Jesus most wanting you to notice about the year that has gone? Is there something he wants you to ‘wake up’ to? Or wake up from?

Jesus doesn’t want us to sleepwalk through our lives. He wants us to be attentive to – what is going on – around us and within us.

The late Father Anthony DeMello, a Jesuit priest said: Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep. They’re born asleep, they live asleep, they marry in their sleep, they raise children in their sleep, they die in their sleep without ever waking up – Meaning – People live and die never understanding the loveliness and the beauty of living.

– Meaning – They live and die without really loving, without tasting deeply the real joy of living because they are so consumed by the busyness and pressures of ordinary life, consumed with eating and drinking, buying and selling… going after worldly concerns.

People need to wake up, open up their eyes, to see what is real, both inside and outside of themselves…

Being alert, to be awake, and vigilant in the biblical sense is not a matter of living in fear of the world ending or of our lives ending. Rather it is a question of having love and reconciliation as our chief concerns, being grateful, appreciating, affirming, forgiving, apologizing, and being more mindful of the joys of living in human community and within the sure embrace of God.

Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

So, What would you like to say to God about the year that has passed?

We have another new beginning. Over the next 12 months, what do you need to be more awake to? What do you need – to do more of, – or less of?

What are the people and things in your life that you ‘go after’, that distract you from being your best self?

The Church has designated these weeks of Advent to remind us that our entire lives must be an ongoing watching for ways that we can grow more spiritual, for us to grow closer to Christ… We are Easter and Advent people.

And we are called to confess our sins. The Gospel tells us – Watch! We watch for opportunities to unite ourselves closer to God through prayer and sacrifice. We watch for opportunities to grow closer to Christ.

The question is: Are you a better person – better yet – are you a better Christian now than you were a year ago?

The season of Advent is not just to prepare for Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of Christ – His first coming… AND when we speak of the second coming of Christ – it does not necessarily mean only the end of human history, it could also mean for us the end of our own individual lives – our own personal death;
We are all going to die someday – sooner or later. It’s a great time to ask some tough questions. Questions like, “Am I ready to die?” and “Where will I go when my life is over?”

We need to be awake spiritually. The end of the world should NOT concern us, nor should we worry excessively about when we will die. What we should worry about is in what state our dying will find us.

The coming of Christ could also mean – His becoming present – in our daily lives…

We say – “we wait for Jesus’ final coming to judge the living and the dead”. We speak of “Christ’s coming into our daily lives” – but, if you really think about it, actually – it is Christ who is always present and always waiting for us to open our hearts and for us to let Him come into our lives.

As Christians, we believe that without Christ in our lives, our lives become a chaos. Without the Lord – away from God’s path, away from God’s ways – we are like the people mentioned in the first reading from Isaiah…they wandered aimlessly. They got themselves into all sorts of trouble…because possessions, selfishness, arrogance, and pride all dominated their lives and destroyed them.

Throughout Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament – one thing is clear – that people – if left to their own devices – if left to exercise their free choice – people can easily become self-destructive. This applies to people of all ages, including us… Our society is no different…

In our society – people are demanding their rights to do whatever they want to do, whenever they want to do…without regard to other people’s rights. People say: “my choice, my body, my life, my family, my marriage, my home, my way” As the great St. Pope John Paul II warned: Freedom must be guided by moral truth or grounded on moral law because freedom outside of moral law leads to self-destruction.

We need the Lord in our lives to guide us… Jesus said: “I am the Way.” We need God to be in our lives… Otherwise – we wander from God’s ways…therefore, we will make a mess of our lives… and we lose our capacity to love.

But – with the Lord, even in the midst of our most difficult struggles in life – and a lot of people are struggling nowadays – but with the Lord – we find peace and hope and joy and continue to grow in love.

Advent calls us to realize and acknowledge how much we need a Savior…
… to realize we cannot make it on our own. We need Jesus to save us.

The name Jesus in Hebrew means: “God saves”… We need Jesus in our lives.
And so – We long for His presence in our lives. That is Advent.

Jesus calls us to stay awake and be alert. And so – Jesus is waking us up – so we do not miss out on the real depth and joy of life – that is happening all around us. Jesus said: “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full…” (John 10:10) – meaning fullness of life! – lasting joy and happiness which the world cannot give.

Jesus calls us not just to “get through” life; but to plunge into life…. Not just to “get over” failures; but to learn from our failures… Not just to endure challenges; but to face and embrace them… because if we do – our lives will be much richer. This is the active waiting Jesus calls us – to prevent us – from aimless wandering and to prevent us from having meaningless lives.

Whatever this coming year will bring us, all will be wonderful, exciting, beautiful and full of love, as long as our hope is in the Lord.

If our hope is in the Lord, we will be ready when He comes however and whenever that might be.

First Sunday of Advent 2017 – Cycle B
The Text: Mark 13:33-37

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