Of all of the seasons : each with their own beauty : winter is the most silent. It is dark like the womb preparing to give birth. Advent gives us an opportunity to be still and await the signs of new life. Hope is the lantern we hold in the darkness.
Yet this season of Advent is also filled with feverish activity: shopping, decorating, baking : all crowd our already busy lives.
In the Gospel today Jesus has some most interesting things to reveal to us about our busy lives and his final coming : which some call "The Rapture" -- he says:
"Two men will be out in the field;
One will be taken and one will be left. Now, that is interesting!
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
One will be taken and one will be left." Now, that is interesting!
He doesn't tell us WHY the one is taken and the other is left. He could just as easily have said:
Two women were out shopping;
One was taken and one was left.
Two men were watching a Packer game,
One was taken and one was left.
WHY? What made the difference? I want to know because I want to be the one taken up in the Lord. Both were clearly doing the same thing. It is not that one was at church praying and the other was shopping or watching the flat screen TV.
There is a story in which it is said that God and a man were walking down a path when the man asked God, "What is the world like?" God replied "I cannot talk when I am thirsty. If you could get me a cool drink of water we could then discuss what the world is like. There is a village nearby. Go and get me a drink." The man went to the village and knocked on the door of the first house. A lovely young woman answered. His jaw dropped but he managed to ask, "I need a glass of cool water." She agreed but said, "It is midday and you must be hungry. Would you care to stay for some food?" "I am hungry he said," looking over his shoulder. "And your offer of food is a great kindness."
He goes in and closes the door behind him. Thirty years go by and the man who wanted to know what the world was like and the woman who offered him a cool drink of water have married and had five children. One day a huge storm blew in from the ocean and threatened their life.
The man cried, "Help me, God!" A voice from the midst of the storm says, "Where is my cup of cold water?"
The story suggests that the world is a place of forgetting. Jesus says "Stay awake!" We are so caught up in the daily, immediate needs of each day that we forget the spiritual which sustains and gives meaning and passion to our lives.
So, the ones who were taken up with Jesus at the end times perhaps were the ones who stayed awake! It was inner vigilance and awareness that made the difference. The Kingdom of Heaven is within and we carry it wherever we go and whatever we do. Don't be like a sleepwalker going through the automatic motions of daily life. Stay awake! Be conscious that you are a Christ bearer : a bearer of the Light.
We want to stay connected but are pulled in a thousand directions. What are the strategies that would keep us awake : keep us connected?
Each of us has to find the strategies that work for us, given our particular situation in life. I am retired but still seem to find myself pulled in many directions. I have made a commitment to rise early and spend time in prayer. My hope is that this will awaken me during the day : that I will recognize the presence of Christ in the people I meet and the situations in which I find myself. Perhaps I will be more compassionate, have more courage to speak the truth : see through the lens of Spirit. Our spiritual practice could be as simple as repeating the prayer, "Spirit of God, awaken me this day".
The man in the field or the man watching TV who were taken or the woman grinding at the mill or out shopping who were taken : they all had a realization : however great or small - of God's presence within.
They were awake!