Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday in the 21st Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Sleeping To Stay Awake
Readings: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; Psalms 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Matthew 24:42-51
Picture: CC jonnykeelty
On the approximately 3-hour long bus ride from the airport to my final destination, I wanted very much to stay awake. I wanted to take in the scenery provided by the coastal drive. I wanted to notice important information, details about the various exits along the freeway, for example. But the rigors of the flight across the Pacific proved just a little too much – I had tried not to sleep for any extended period on the plane, in an effort to avoid jetlag. As a result, more than half of the precious bus ride found me in dreamland.
This is the experience that is brought to mind as we listen to Jesus exhort the disciples to stay awake and stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. We all know that this is easier said than done. Like what I found on the bus, the desire to sleep can prove too overpowering. We succumb so easily to the zee-monster, and before we know it the scenery has passed us by. Ever so stealthily, the Son of Man may have come and gone, without us being any the wiser. Is there anything we can do to help ourselves stay awake?
Perhaps the first thing is to notice what staying awake entails. While we may think only in terms of staying away from the more obvious occasions of sin – not getting angry with others, for example, or shielding our senses from all less than wholesome delights – Jesus speaks mainly in terms of responsibility for those entrusted to our care. What sort of servant… is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? A key part of the lesson that Jesus offers us today seems to be that staying awake is at least as much about our need to care for others as it may be about our own struggles with purity. To stay awake and to be ready to welcome the Son of Man who comes at unexpected moments of each passing day, we need to be conscientious in seeing to the needs of those for whom we have some responsibility.
And perhaps it is only when we allow our hearts to be taken up by such preoccupations – when we are more concerned for the ultimate wellbeing for others than with our own comfort – that we come to learn to do what is necessary to stay awake. Perhaps it is only when we gradually become orientated towards the service of others that we learn to care for ourselves in ways that make us more effective stewards of the Master’s household. We learn to get enough sleep and rest when we need it, for example, so that we can be alert and effective in discovering and seeing to the needs of others. We become more aware of and attentive to our own emotional needs, so as to avoid unconsciously burdening others with them. We carefully cultivate our own interior life, not only so that we ourselves can be holy, but also so that others might encounter the Lord in and through us. In other words, we learn to stay awake by getting enough sleep.
As we continue on the bus ride of life, how much of the scenery are we truly enjoying today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 1:35 am