In today's 2nd reading, Paul tells the Roman Christians to "wake up" from their sleep. In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us the same thing: wake up, be alert. From their warnings, it appears that we are asleep and missing something really important. I believe they are both telling us to wake up, to be alert, to recognize the graced opportunities each new day, each present moment, brings us.

It's hard to live in the present, isn't it? The past and the future keep bugging us: the past with guilt and regret, the future with worries and anxieties. Things happen in our lives about which we feel guilty and regretful. Guilt tells us: "We ought to have said this. We ought to have done that! These ought-tos keep us feeling guilty and regretful about the past and prevent us from being fully alert to the present.

Yet even worse than our guilt about the past are our worries about the future. These worries fill our lives with what ifs: What if I lose my job, what if my parent dies, what if I get cancer, what if there's not enough money to pay the bills. These what ifs can so fill our minds that we become blind to the many blessings we do have, blind to the smiles of our children and grandchildren, deaf to the voices of our friends.

Today we begin a new church year. This is an appropriate time to realize the true nature of these oughts and what ifs. They are not real! Either they pull us back to a past we cannot change or they push us forward to a future we cannot predict. Guilt about the past and anxiety about the future prevent us from experiencing each present moment as a gift from our Loving God.

"Wake up!" Jesus says. Wake up to the unconditional, unimaginable love God has for each of us right now, this very moment! Our mission on earth is to reflect that love now in our lives, no matter how difficult the now may be. Real life takes place in the here and the now, not in the oughts and what ifs. Our God is a God of what's real, not the God of what could have been or the God of what might be. Our God is the God of the now, the God of the present moment : be that moment difficult or easy, comforting or challenging. The alarm is on! Do we wake up, or not?

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