Being wakeful

Yesterday’s Gospel reading at Mass has Jesus telling us, “Be watchful! Be alert!” We do not know when the Lord is coming. This passage can point us to at attitude that we can bring to bear in our lives at multiple levels. We do not know when the Second Coming will be. We do not know when our own deaths will occur, when we hope to see the Lord face to face. We also do not know when we will meet Christ in another in this world: in the face of a homeless man, in the shape of a newborn baby, or in the morning rising of the sun. The latter kind of encountering of Christ requires a certain watchfulness on our part. Here are three ways to be watchful this Advent:

1. We can savor the sights and sounds of the season. Ignatian spirituality often uses this term “savor” to emphasize the need to slow down and to sink into the graces that we are given, and not to move past them too quickly. Like a good meal that we might savor slowly, we can savor our surroundings.

2. We can be hopeful. Hope is not wishful thinking or merely projecting our own desires into the future. Rather, Christian hope is based in God, based in the belief that God wants to continually give us good gifts, no matter what else is happening in our lives. Part of the watchfulness of Advent is bringing a conscious attitude of hope to our present circumstances.

3. We can practicing gratitude by giving thanks at the end of each day for the graces that God has offered us. God gives us sometimes unexpected gifts throughout the day—what Pope Francis names as the gifts of the “God of surprises.” By naming these gifts at day’s end we also become increasingly aware the next day of the presence of God in our midst.