The underlying Greek word “vigilant” is also used in the parable of the “Wise and Foolish Virgins” who fall asleep when the bridegroom is coming. It is the same root word used when Jesus admonishes the apostles sleeping the in Garden of Gethsemane. These and other passages always bring out the worry wart in me. People, good people, at the gate to the wedding banquet, present with the Lord while he prays – and they are asleep, not paying attention, or distracted. What about me? Am I wasting time, working on the wrong things? Am I asleep at the switch, or unprepared and without a clue? Am I vigilant about my faith? Hmm…, am I vigilant about my faith?
These are good things to reflect upon and to take into prayer.
Vigilant, attentive, watchful, observant, alert. Are those traits about my life in general?
This time of year, if you live in Florida, those are very good characteristics. From June through the end of October, we Floridians are quite attentive to the National Hurricane Center in Miami when they begin to monitor a tropical disturbance moving westward from Africa into the Atlantic. We don’t immediately run about crying aloud that the sky is falling. We can be rather calm about it all. The first tropical disturbance reminds us to check to ensure we have working flashlights, a radio, batteries, water, and other hurricane-kit supplies. And then we have a good night’s sleep and come morning, check the internet to see if the disturbance has become a tropical depression, a tropical storm, or a hurricane. We watch. Depending on the track of the hurricane we watch with more or less attentiveness. August of 2012 we watched tropical storm Debbie – basically watched it pass by – but we were alert. 2004 was different. Florida was hit by four hurricanes: Hurricane Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. And each one seem to want to visit the neighborhood. We were on high alert.
But you can see hurricanes coming from a long way off, with lots of warning.
Coming springtime, the Midwest and Southeast part of the nation are part of tornado alley. By comparison those storms come upon you like a thief in the night. Just ask the good people Hattiesburg, MS or Moore, OK.
The weather and its coming and goings make us vigilant. What else in life causes you to be vigilant, attentive, watchful, observant, alert? Is it the literal thief in the night? Maybe at best I have been attentive – you know… lock the doors and windows, install an motion-sensing flood lights outside, regular things. Did I stay up all night on watch? No. Didn’t install ADT or other home protection systems, either. Maybe a better word for all this is that I was “mindful.” I was mindful of the possibility of a thief in the night, but it was all just integrated into my life.
But lots of things have to be integrated into life. We are asked to be mindful of so many things. Our families, school, children, relatives, work, charitable organizations, parish ministry and worship – there is no shortage of things we are asked to be mindful about.
And in the milieu, things slip through the cracks. We find we are “asleep at the switch,” prioritizing the wrong things, and maybe took a wrong turn somewhere. Then, we’re awake, but just a little bit lost.
In discussions with people, it is rare for someone to say, “Hey Father, how ya’ doing. You know I just decided not to go to church for a while. Now I’m back. How ya’ been.” It is most often like this: “Father, I don’t know what happened, but it has been months since I have been to church…. I guess things just got complicated.” And the voice just trails off into an awkward silence. My first response is always, “Welcome back.” But on the other side of that welcome is a whole host of questions, which if pastorally appropriate to ask in the given situation, will probably reveal a more complex faith life.
For example, “So,…. how’s you prayer life.” Another span of silence – often times while people realize it has been a while since they prayed. “So, …. when was the last time Jesus came across the radar screen of your life?” And all I am asking for is a blip on the screen.
Think about your yesterday. Did Jesus come up on the radar screen? Was He a part of your day in a way in which you became mindful of His presence? Did you pray yesterday – and I am talking about prayer that is more than “Bless us or Lord…” or “Now I lay me down to sleep….?” When you prayed did you feel the presence of God?
What are you doing for your spiritual life? Reading a good book that spiritually feeds you? Do you go on-line daily, regularly, to take in the readings of the day, a spiritual reflection, or read about the life of the saint for the day? Ever thought about Bible Study? Ever been on a retreat? Been to confession lately? Do you prepare for Sunday Mass in a way that leads you to be fully present and participating with the community in praise and worship? Do you worship God with your whole heart, mind, and being? Is Sunday the Lord’s Day, or do you allocate the Lord a percentage of the day? There are a lot more questions like those.
You know, I should gather them all, put them in an on-line poll with every answer getting so many points. Then at the end of the poll, you score gets tallied and you are ranked with tag-lines such as: “On full alert!” or “You’re OK, but…” or “Hey you, wake up!”
I think you get my point: Are you mindful of your life in Faith? In the here and now? Even if it seems a bit far away, a bit remote. “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned … [He] did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar.”
Abraham and Sarah, and all of our ancestor in this Faith, were all mindful about that Faith, and are now co-heirs to the kingdom. How do you plan to become ever mindful of this living Faith in your life? You need a plan, a plan to bring the promised blessings of God into your life in a deliberate, steady and mindful manner.
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”