As I read through the cover article, “Seeking Those Who are Ignored,” another aspect of Charity comes to mind that resonates with the words of Jesus: “Be watchful! Be Alert!” Do we really need this reminder every year?
Time will accelerate to breakneck speeds in the next few weeks as we leave the serene spirit of Thanksgiving and move closer to Christmas. There are many year-end activities to accomplish both at work and at home before we archive 2014. There are also many things to prepare for 2015, both at home and at work, so that when dawn breaks upon us on Monday, January 5, we can hit the ground running just like those flying cars on the TV commercials. There is also the shopping that needs to be accomplished with anxious hope that each gift will be perfect. Christmas cards and/or letters must be mailed. End of year financial matters must be wrapped up to prepare for the upcoming income tax season. There are the decorations to put up and take down and somehow, in the week between Christmas and New Year’s (don’t forget the fixings for those special meals) we have to find a way to eke out thank you notes for the gifts we receive – especially those that are not quite so “perfect.”
Whew! Just talking about it takes my breath away.
Jesus’ words about being watchful and alert are addressed for the end times but, like so much of scripture’s polyvalence, the words have other applications – like in our daily lives. Consider the times during any day when we fail to help someone, provide a kind word, share the hope of the Gospel or comfort a sad and grieving soul… not because we don’t care… but because we don’t notice. Consider how many times during each day we sin because we are not alert or watchful for those particular triggers that cause us to “react” without thinking. Right here, in that moment, is where the words of Jesus bear special significance. The only way to be Alert and Watchful of these fleeting moments that play on our human weaknesses is through a constantly vigilant and prayerfully contemplative spirit.
Our morning prayer needs to transcend the passing moments of the dawn breaking upon us. Those streaks of light that come through prayer need to penetrate our hardness of heart and we need to carry that Light in our hearts during every moment of the day. This is where the mind can help us by maintaining a watchfulness and alertness to the world around us and its many cries for God – the Light in the darkness. Through a prayerful attitude of Watchfulness and Alertness we can replace these unthinking bad habits with thoughtful good ones. We call that Virtue: A habitual and firm disposition to do the good (CCC glossary). What a powerful and Diaconal way to spend this season of Advent… instead of submitting to the “pressures of the season,” which are, by the way, self-imposed.