How do we stay awake?

By | November 2, 2011

One of the dimensions of Jesus’ mission was to get people to pay attention to the will of the Father. Jesus was forever waking people up and getting them to embrace reality. Surely that is one of the themes of today’s Gospel. The 10 bridesmaids were to stand vigil, awaiting the coming of the groom. It wasn’t a matter of love-affection-forgiveness, all important Gospel words, but rather a question of staying awake and being prepared. We know the rest of the story.

“Wakeup” seems to be at the heart of our first reading from the book of Wisdom. Wise people are alert to what is going on within and around them. The qualities of that wakefulness are anticipation, prudence, solicitude and vigilance. But there is a problem here. We tend to doze off, to take catnaps, to miss 40 to 80 percent of reality. We need the gift of wisdom to be discerning and present to the sacrament of the moment.

If there was anyone who was awake it was St. Paul. One wonders if he ever slept. He was on the watch for the Lord’s coming to attain the same vigilance. In speaking to the Thessalonians his concern is that the mystery of death would not overwhelm people with grief. Jesus, who died and rose, is the groom who will come to take those who follow him into the fullness of God’s kingdom. What consolation we have here.

So how do we wake up or stay awake? Through the disciplines of listening and seeing, tasting and touching, we become present to the slice of reality before us. A commitment to doing God’s will in the here and now and refusing to get caught in the past or future are ways of being vigilant. After all, the past is gone and tomorrow may never come. How foolish to spend time and energy on regrets and anxieties.

Jesus used words, words like love and forgiveness. Powerful words indeed, signifying the presence of grace. Jesus was on a mission to wake people up so that they (we) might see the mysteries of creation, redemption and sanctification all around us.

Alarm clocks, sirens, bells, horns seek to call us to attention. Physical wakefulness is one thing, spiritual alertness is another. The wise bridesmaids took their rest but upon waking they were prepared to encounter the groom. We too need our rest; we too need to be vigilant and attentive to the Lord’s coming.

Questions for reflection

1. How attentive are you to the inspirations and promptings of the Holy Spirit?

2. What are the obstacles you encounter in being present to God’s grace?

3. Are words of Jesus important in your spiritual life?

Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.

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