“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man” (21:36).
These are the last words we will hear or read this year from the readings of the Mass. The season of Advent and the new liturgical year begins tonight at the vigil Mass. As I read these words, I thought they are not only good words to end the year with but that they would also be good words to read at the beginning of each day.
“Be vigilant at all times” are certainly words to abide by. This is not a call to be paranoid or to live in fear. This is a call to be aware, to watch and pray. Being vigilant is also a reminder that we need to resist the temptation of speeding through life with blinders on and not taking time to listen to that quiet voice of God that guides us day in and day out. The more we hear the subtle, quiet leading of the Holy Spirit and ignore it, the less we grow in our awareness of his presence in our lives or the presence of those who need his mercy, grace, and love.
Worse yet, the less we take the time to hear and know God’s word, the more we will be tempted and persuaded by the myriad of other voices that are not of God, that might lead us astray. That is why prayer is so important, so we can develop an ear for our loving God and Father’s guiding voice heard when we are still. Once we begin to recognize his voice spoken in the silence of our hearts, we will begin to hear him speak in our daily activities.
Being vigilant also requires us to surrender our self-serving ego, for if we want what we want when we want, if we just keep up our pace at a fever pitch, if we are feeding ourselves with apparent goods, we can open ourselves up to some unsatisfying and pretty horrible scenarios.
God will provide us with the strength and awareness to escape the imminent tribulations. There are those who seek to do us harm in so many ways and forms that are unconscionable, yet pretending that they aren’t there, doesn’t work, and being paralyzed with fear makes us more vulnerable. We need to be aware of, and establish clear boundaries for ourselves and communicate them with others. Each time we listen to our intuition, our conscience, the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, we increase our confidence in who we are and who God leads us to be. We can also sidestep scenarios that can lead us down some very dark pathways.
Even while being vigilant, people of prayer, darkness can still fall upon us and those we care for. We still live in a fallen world. There is darkness within the Church as well. But in each and every case, we are to maintain hope in the one who we will be preparing for this Advent, the Son of Man, who we stand before. He is the Light that shines in the darkness who has not and will not be overcome by it (cf. John 1:5).
Though others may let us down, Jesus is the one we can trust. Jesus is the one who will accompany us through the trials and tribulations we face. As St Augustine said in one of his homilies, “while we are still in the midst of this evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil.” For, in the end, Jesus the Christ will be the one to lead us home to the Father’s embrace for all eternity. Watch and pray today and all days!
Painting: Head view of Rembrandt’s Christ with Arms Folded.