Sunday, November 30, 2014

Word for the Day: Watch

I love the liturgical year. It’s one of the truly beautiful things about being Catholic: following the lives of Christ and His saints through the seasons.

Here we are on Day 1, the beginning of our year, the first Sunday in Advent, watching and waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ; and in today’s Gospel, Jesus Christ is alive and well, already preaching to us to keep watch for the end of things.

And here I am, trying to get in tune with our Lord and Savior, doing my readings for 7 am mass, and I can’t get a third meaning of watch entirely out of my mind:

Watch the Patriots and Packers at 4:30 EST. But then isn’t that just Catholic life all over?

If you love the Church as I do, then you are a child, awaiting the birth of the Savior. All of your senses are tuned: to carols ringing at the mall, to a Christmas fir tied to the roof of Mom’s car, to the anticipation of Christmas feasting and family celebration. Hopefully you’re also tuned into the liturgy, which begins today preparing us for the most joyful event in human history: God born among us.

If you are a practicing Catholic adult as I am, then you are also a pilgrim, walking toward your own destiny, awaiting the end. You know your end will involve death, your own personal bodily death, and you believe it will involve something more than death. You know that it is important to live your Christian life as fully and sincerely as you can. You know that you are walking, like the character Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, on a one-way road to . . . In Christian’s case, it is The Celestial City. In yours? Wherever your road leads, you know there’s no going back. Everything eventually must be left behind.

If you are a lay, unvowed Catholic like me, you are also a citizen of this world. You give to Caesar as well as to God, and you can’t avoid, nor should you entirely, the daily attractions and entanglements of existence: the ups, the downs, the many little bits of nothing in between. Christian leaves behind his wife and four sons to set out for the Celestial City. I don’t know about your spouse, but mine wouldn’t go for that. And so in the mid-afternoon of life you may find yourself forgetting both the beginning (Nativity) and the end (the Four Last Things) and settling down with a bowl of popcorn and a beverage of your choice to watch NFL football.

And so we live in a tension, suspended in the present between our beginning and our end. And so maybe we always are praying, as St. Paul recommended, but not always as St. Paul prayed.

We pray: Come, Lord Jesus!

We pray: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner!

We pray: Go Pats!

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 cock-crow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!” (Mark 13: 33–37)

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