Mystical Word  |  Weekly Reflection
Mystical Word is a weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading by L.J. Milone, Director of Faith Formation, Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle

Spiritual Wakefulness

First Sunday of Advent

L.J. shares the following reflection on Sunday's reading from the Gospel according to Mark, concerning the spiritual state of wakefulness. 

Reality of the Holy Mystery

A homeless man curls up on the side of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, which crosses the Potomac River.  His tummy rumbles as he tries to stay warm on a harsh winter night. As he is about to drift off into sleep, a limousine pulls up.  A beautiful blond woman steps out of the car.  She is dressed richly and fashionably.  She stoops down, pats his back gently and say, “Oh, honey, you look so cold and lonely.  Would you like to come with me?  I have a warm bed and a hot meal waiting for you.”  The man eagerly jumps up and dashes into her car.  He can’t believe his luck!  Inside the limousine the beautiful woman says she is a model and she offers him a drink.  Again, he marvels at his luck!  She takes him to her estate and feeds him a sumptuous meal.  After dinner, they retire to their own rooms for the night.  In bed, the homeless man can’t recall the last time he was full and warm.  As he’s thinking, someone knocks at his bedroom door and opens it gingerly.  It’s the beautiful model.  She says, “I thought some extra money would help you.  I have one million dollars to give you.  Roll over, it’s in your night stand.”  The man rolled over, right into the Potomac.

Our fantasies can be so real sometimes.  We can get so caught up in what we think is going to happen, or what we want to happen, that when reality happens we experience it as hard and unforgiving.  It’s all too easy and all too common for reality to dash our dreams.  I think, though, Jesus would want reality to crush our fantasies, at least sometimes.  Jesus preaches the God who is here and now, who is in reality as it is, not as we imagine it to be.  Jesus believes reality is better than our fantasies, for the reality upon which everything depends is the Holy Mystery of God.  

Being Awake and Ready

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus says we do not know when the Lord will come.  The Lord comes like a thief in the night and robs us of everything we hold dear, all those things we think will give us happiness.  The Lord may come when we least expect, catching us with our proverbial pants down.  The Lord may come when we are deep in a fantasy or caught up in some worry.  The Lord may come while we’re out shopping.  Here’s the surprise, though.  The Lord has already come!  The Lord is here and we’re constantly missing him.  We’re more interested in what’s going in the world, in what’s on television, or in what’s for dinner.  This Advent we may need to take time to reflect on where our minds wander when they aren’t awake and ready for the Lord who comes.

Staying awake, as Jesus commands, means to be present in the here and now.  It is the state of clear and full consciousness rooted in this very moment.  To be here and now is simply to be aware, but not of anything specific.  It is simply to be.  Pure being is pure awareness.  We are not aware of any-thing in particular.  Our souls are silently empty within. Because of this and because the reality grounding our being is the Mystery of God, pure awareness is also pure nothingness.  Waking up means bringing our minds to the point of pure awareness, pure being, and pure nothing.

Aspiring to Wakefulness

Wakefulness is a high religious aspiration.  Saints and sages desire this state because it is the state of enlightenment and salvation.  It is the state in which we see God in all things.  It is the state of mercy and compassion, for through this state we see all people as sister and brother.  It is the state of pure bliss.  In this conscious state, we know peace and freedom.  In this full awareness, nothing can disturb us, nothing can oppress us, and nothing can frighten us.  Only in this state of awakened consciousness can we see the injustice in the world and create the avenues toward justice.

Keeping the Focus

This Advent, concern yourself less with presents and more with presence.  Focus not on what to get for Christmas but on the God who is with us and within us right here and right now.  You will be bombarded this holiday season with copious amounts of marketing.  You will be the target of multinational conglomerates trying to get you to purchase their latest gadget.  You will feel pressure from family and friends to fall in line and continue the furious consumer race.  Even as your to-do list quadruples and you’re spending your free time at the mall, keep Jesus words, stay awake, in mind.  You can have this state of mind as you carry out all the stressful and not-so-stressful activities in preparation for Christmas. Heed Jesus’ words and inhabit the state of pure consciousness, which is also pure being and pure nothingness.