The necessity for watchfulness
Jesus said: ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
Today we are entering a time of preparation. As the secular frenzy associated with Christmas moves up a gear we are called to pray, to engage with scripture on a daily basis, and to mark the season with some form of self-sacrifice (fasting). These rituals of preparation are commonly associated with Lent, the time that precedes our celebration of the great victory of Easter. As Lent is a time that leads us towards the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, so the season which begins today invites us to make suitable preparation for the celebrations with which we will mark the beginnings of that life-changing journey.
As we contemplate four weeks of spiritual discipline we begin with Jesus’ call for watchfulness. Throughout the gospel narrative Our Lord reminds us that our human plans and machinations count for nothing unless they are rooted in faith. In today’s reading we are reminded of the transient nature of our human existence; we are also reminded of the need to be in perpetual readiness for God’s summons into his eternal presence.
It is a fact that we forever find ourselves daydreaming, struggling to remain focused on Jesus’ command to: Keep awake. No matter how strong our resolve at the beginning of each day, we soon find ourselves being distracted by the demands of the hectic, unrelenting secular world. Every day we find ourselves susceptible to the changes and chances, the vagaries and serendipities that distracted those who allowed the thief to deprive them of all that is truly precious.
Let us pray that, amidst the distractions of the next four weeks, we might remain steadfast as we prepare for the intense joy of the Incarnation.