” … may he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” – Mark 13:36
Most of us have experienced a situation similar to this one:
Arriving home one afternoon, taped to the door was a note: “I was in the area and thought I would surprise you with an unexpected visit. Sorry that you weren’t home. I would have loved to spend some time with you.”
As Advent begins, I have begun to think about how I will spend the next four weeks preparing for the celebration of Emmanuel – “God with Us.” Today’s readings remind me to “Watch … you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.” If I hope to stand ready for the appearance of the Lord in the house of my life, I will need to be at home when He arrives. The Advent “call” to be at home certainly means a great deal more than staying quarantined within the four walls of my house. It provides an opportunity to recognize the home, which encompasses my entire life, as the home that will entertain the unexpected guest: as Holy Ground, as the unique situation where I have been “put in place” by a loving God “to manifest love to the peoples of the world in these times.” I have begun to wonder if my home is spacious and welcoming enough to receive an unexpected guest.
As I reflect on the ordinary days of my life, I find that I am often physically at home, but not with the attentiveness and openness that offer hospitality to an unexpected visitor. Sometimes I find myself “sleepwalking” through my life, occupying each moment with no more mindfulness than that I would give to brushing my teeth or tying my shoes. Helpful as these routines might be, at the end of a full day I am left with the question, “When and how did you respond to what was asked of you today?” There are other days when my attention is given over to the accomplishment of all the tasks and responsibilities that fill my “Day Planner” page. I begin and end the day pre-occupied, having left little time to listen and even less willingness to change my plans should an unexpected guest arrive.
I find myself much like Martha “worried and anxious about many things” and somewhat jealous of Mary who peacefully listens to the house guest. At the end of such a day I wonder “to what ‘call’ was my life an answer today?”
Isaiah prayed, “Would that we were mindful of you in our ways!” Nothing is lacking to us in the “common, ordinary, unspectacular flow of everyday life.” What is left to us is the willingness to “stand ready to answer when asked if you are available for God to become more present in your life and through you to the world” as the Xaverian Brothers ‘Fundamental Principles’ state. Much of how we take up our everyday life depends on how we encounter the people, events, and the world that we inhabit. Is each day simply “more of the same old – same old” or is it “Holy Ground” prepared to manifest and nurture the abiding love of God? There is an interesting Koan which highlights the difference made by how we experience life:
To those who do not understand, things are just as they appear:
To those who understand, things are just as they appear.
As we enter this first week of Advent, may we find ways to be truly at home in our lives, attentive and watchful, ready to respond to the presence and call of the unexpected guest; whether that comes in the form of a reassuring sense of love and communion or a challenge to acknowledge and surrender our sinfulness and isolation to make room in our homes for the presence of Emmanuel. What attitudes would help me to stay at home, truly in “my place” and keep me attentive and available to respond to God’s call, wherever and whenever it “appears” in my ordinary life? What practice might help me to develop a habit of readiness for response?
Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Brother Joseph Pawlika
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