My Dear Sisters and Brothers! At the beginning of the New Liturgical Year we hear from our Blessed Lord and encouragement: “Be on your guard, stay awake.” Be on your guard in the Bible means: Have your eyes wide open. Observe carefully. What we are hearing on this First Sunday of Advent isn’t like the road signs: “A microsleep can kill in seconds.” On the contrary it is a call to live our Christian life to the full. It is about recognising and accepting all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ, as St Paul says in our Second Reading. It is true that as humans we need our sleep, honestly we need it quite a lot, we sleep one-third of our life. However the question is how much we are awake with our eyes wide open during the remaining two-third of our life, how much attention we pay to the signs God gives us every day. The Lord does give us such signs. These signs, these graces don’t restrict our life enjoyment but rather give us a chance to live out the greatest human dreams; dreams about infinity, sense of purpose, joy, peace, love, friendship etc. The graces of God make us live our life to the full.
This Sunday the Church also begins the Year of the Consecrated Life. We, as a Catholic Community, will be reflecting and glorifying the Lord for the richness of the Consecrated Life in the Church. The richness is expressed not only by various habits the consecrated persons like nuns, religious Brothers and priests wear, but it is the expression of lives lived to the full.
A few days ago we read in our churches the Gospel of the poor widow who put two small coins in the treasury of Jerusalem Temple. Some people could start arguing whether she offered much or little but this argument doesn’t make sense as she offered everything. When the coins fell into the treasury she had nothing left to support herself, she had place herself totally in God’s hands. It could be said that the life treated her badly: she had lost her husband, probably her children too, she was left with only two little coins and she donated even those. Those two little coins meant survival but she chose life instead, the life which only God can give. Those two coins probably didn’t make much noise when they hit the other coins in the treasury but they still sound in our ears as we remember that poor woman. Her faith stops us to contemplate what it means living life to the full. It is about trusting the lord.
In the letter inaugurating the Year of the Consecrated life Pope Francis wrote that: “Religious should be men and women able to wake the world up.” You can wake up somebody drastically by making noise. I still remember doing my retreat in a monastery and falling out of bed at 3am when a monk started ringing the bell just outside the window of the room I was occupying. Sometimes we need such a wakeup call. However the most effective way of waking up the world is the dawn. There is no much noise made by the dawn but it does wake us up. In the Gospel Jesus Christ is described as the Rising Sun. The call to the religious life is the call to live life to the full in the light of our Blessed Lord who shines like he did on that mountain when he was transfigured. Let us also pray so that our young men and woman may have faith and courage to respond to the call of the Lord to be the ones who are to wake up the world by their total commitment to the Lord as nuns, brothers and religious priests.
Most of the religious men and women wear habits which have got various belts or cinctures, it is a reminder of what Jesus said in the Gospel: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps lit as you await the coming of your master.” When next time you see a nun or a brother or a religious priest wearing a habit may it remind you that they are not the only ones Jesus is coming for. He is coming for you too. So “Be on your guard, stay awake.”