“Man is a rope stretched between the animals and the ‘overman’” ~ Nietzsche
Anthony De Melo once asked, “What is the difference between a sinner and a saint?” Smiling, he responded, “None! They are both sinners; it’s just that the saint knows it.”
We spend a great deal of our lives asleep, unaware of what is happening around us and even within us. We live distracted and incapable of making sense of what happens to us, partly out of laziness and partly out of fear that when we open our eyes we will be disappointed.
As the prophet Isaiah says, on this first Sunday of Advent, it often feels like we are wandering without a goal in sight. We feel abandoned, as if God was no longer shepherding us or accompanying His flock on a cloudy and misty day.
And our lives become nothing more than waiting… waiting for something to change, waiting for something to surprise us. We hope that we will eventually find something but meanwhile, life passes without us ever finding an answer to our unspecified desires. We wait, like in Waiting for Godot, not knowing very well for whom.
In order to wake from this dream, the first thing we must do is remember who we are. Sometimes, in the space between sleeping and waking, we need to recover ourselves and remember when we fell asleep. Sometimes, as Isaiah says, perhaps we feel like unclean people, like polluted rags, withered like leaves taken by the wind, incapable of rousing ourselves to cling to God (Is. 64, 2-7).
However, the prophet also reminds us that we never cease to be like clay that God is working continuously. Waking up means realizing the shape we have taken on, so that we may ask God to reshape us.
As the time of the Passion approached, Jesus invited his disciples ever more urgently to watch, to open their eyes. To watch means to care for and protect what we have been entrusted with. Protecting the treasure that is our life preserves our relationship with the Lord of the house who has given us our wealth.
Opening our eyes upon our life is remaining in the relationship with He who has given it to us. In fact, in the Garden of Olives, the disciples will fall asleep; they will forget the Lord of the house; temptation will approach and, finding them sleeping, it will defeat them.
Watching means keeping fully present to the mission life has entrusted to me. Watching means having the meaning that reality gives me continually fully present. What is my mission; what is life asking of me today? We fall asleep when we are no longer able to find a meaning to our lives, when it seems like life is no longer worth living.
We are not the ones who should enthusiastically invent or construct a meaning for our lives, for it is given to us and we must welcome it. God is generous with everyone. He never gives a life without also giving it a meaning.
This is why we are watchful! We await the meaning that life generously offers us. We await God, who continually comes into our lives. God is ad-ventum, He who has come-to-us and who continually fills us with His presence.
Ad-ventum is a past participle: God is not just He who will come, for He has come already. It is a past participle; it is a promise that has already been kept. This is why we can be sure that, from then on, God has never ceased enriching our lives with His Word. We await He who continually comes to us.
What then is man? He is a living caught in tension between certainty and desire! Between the certainty that God has already visited my life and the desire that He would come back to dwell within it.
Questions for personal reflection:
- How would you describe this moment in your life?
- What is the mission that reality is entrusting to you today?
A reading from the Book of Isaiah (63:16B-17, 19B, 64:2-7)
You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!
Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt.
Yet, O LORD, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.
The Word of the Lord
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (13:33-37)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
The Gospel of the Lord