‘Be watchful! Be alert!’

By Vinal Van Benthem | November 26, 2014

Happy New Year! This weekend marks the first Sunday of Advent and, with it, the beginning of the new liturgical year. Colors in church shift from green (for Ordinary Time) to violet. Days grow shorter, nights longer, and winter invites us to come inside and sit by the fire. Only yesterday, it seems, the leaves were flaming across the hillside. Today they lay bruised and broken, brought to earth by November winds.
“Be watchful! Be alert!” Last week, on their way home from a local restaurant, the car some friends were driving collided with a deer. Thankfully, no one was hurt (although we’re not 100 percent sure about the deer, since it ran away) and a phone call to their insurance agent was all that it took to make things right. But at this time of year in Wisconsin, such a collision can be fatal.

“Be watchful! Be alert!” These days no one would even think of driving without seat belts fastened, especially at night or on an icy road. Why? Because no matter how watchful or alert we may be, accidents can happen. Dangerous situations exist and not even the most cautious among us is immune. Like Jesus’ disciples, we “… do not know when the time will come …”

But what about situations that can be dangerous to our spirit? Are we alert to gossip and the whiplash it can cause? To less-than-honest business practices and the unseen dangers that can dart out at us on that road? Are we aware of where the products we buy come from? The websites we visit? Dark roads can be dangerous. Are we prepared for whatever we might find around the next curve?

Like the servants of the “… man traveling abroad …” each of us has our “… own work …” to do. When our customer, our client or our insurance agent calls do we recognize “… the lord of the house …”? Does the quality of our work reflect our readiness? Are we awake to the opportunities for good our work offers? Mark’s Gospel reminds us to be watchful and alert. Come to think of it, that might make a pretty good New Year’s resolution.

Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.

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