“Stay awake, praying at all times”
On this first day of the ‘liturgical New Year’, we open the Gospel of Luke, also known as ‘the Gospel of Mercy’.
In the Gospel today, the Lord warns the Apostles of the things to come, of the end of times, and of the tribulations which will befall the people of that day. We have no idea whether or not we will be included amongst those people, whether this will happen in our lifetime or not – only the Father knows that. But the Church encourages to be vigilant, to look forward – not only to the joy of Christmas but also beyond this, to the dawning of a new age.
In this Gospel passage, the Lord gives us salutary advice on how to prepare ourselves for this – it is, above all, a spiritual preparation. He commands us to ‘stay awake, praying at all times’. In ages past, this translated often into an abiding awareness of the temporary nature of life, to be followed by death one day; and so, there were ‘Happy Death Crucifixes’, on which were placed a skull and crossbones, ‘in memento mori’. Today’s Gospel fulfils the same purpose.
Today’s world seems to do all in it’s not-inconsiderable power to prevent us from having the thought of death and the end times in our minds. The incessant noise, ceaseless and frenetic activity, so many varied daily occupations, all crowd out the realisation that all of this is but temporary; after it, will come something which is eternal and which will never fade away.
And this is why the Lord tells us to ‘stay awake’ – to keep these thoughts before us in our minds and in our hearts. How do we do this? By ‘praying at all times’. Prayer keeps us connected to the Most Holy Trinity, to the God Who created and sustains us, and before Whom we will one day stand for our particular judgement.
As we enter this new liturgical year, it is good practice to place these thoughts before us and ponder on them, so that we might begin to prepare ourselves as the Lords tells us to do. As we do so, may His Word enliven us and set us on fire with zeal for Him and for the good of souls.