“May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.” Hearing this in Scripture at this beginning of the Season of Advent, the new Church Year, it will come as no surprise to hear me say that this theme can also pertain to our spiritual lives. We are asked to consider whether we are “awake” or “sleeping” in our relationship to the Lord. After all, Advent is all about waiting and preparing for the coming of the Lord — in every way that happens — in history, in our daily lives, when we meet him face to face, and at the end of time. The Lord is coming — will we be ready? Are we ready?

Now, it is true that Jesus spoke these words in the context of instructing his disciples about what would take place in the future, before and at the time of his “Second Coming” (as later generations came to call it). And yet, clearly people at that very moment were still unprepared for his coming, unprepared for God to visit his people in this way, or for God to be in their midst at that very moment in time. God came to them in the person of Jesus on his terms — not theirs. And many at the time were simply not ready, not able to see him for who he was . Even the disciples themselves struggled with this same thing, struggled with trying to understand who this Jesus was in light of their whole Jewish history. Make no mistake about it. They didn’t always see him clearly. They didn’t always understand what he was talking about. They probably couldn’t even get their minds around it.

How many disciples had, in a sense, “nodded off” — had become spiritually distracted or drowsy? How many had failed to stay spiritually awake, and so couldn’t even see the Lord for who he was? How many were sleeping, when what they needed to be was fully awake, fully alert, fully ready to recognize the God who stood right in front of them? And how many of us are doing precisely the same thing?

The purpose for remaining wide awake and alert is so that we don’t fall into the trap of living either simply in the past or simply in the future. The past we can’t change ; the future is not promised to us . God wants us to live in the present, in the NOW, in this very moment, in this time and place. He doesn’t want us lamenting what could have been nor postpone the changes we know need to be made within us. He wants us to experience life to the fullest today, right now. He wants us to be able to see him in every person and circumstance. He wants us to treat every day as if it might be our last, and our encounter with every person as if we may not pass this way again. That’s what it means to be alert and awake. And when our days are done, meeting the Lord will be like meeting an old friend.

The Lord is coming — today, tomorrow and at the end of time. May we use this Advent season to ready ourselves to meet him in every person and around every corner. We are keeping our eyes open, as we do not want to miss the best part!

Deacon Stuart Neslin is a Parish Deacon and Parish Administrator at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rome.

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