There’s a song from 1967 from a group called Buffalo Springfield which captures the theme of today’s readings. Stop. What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down. Stop. What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down. Every one of us once in a while needs to stop what we’re doing – raise our head up and notice where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. Only when we do that can we make a course correction so we can end up where we WANT to be. So as you listen today, think about three questions: Where am I now? Where do I want to go? And What do I need to do different to get there?
Jerry thought he was in pretty good health. He jogged once in a while, usually watched what he ate, although he would binge on Ice Cream once in a while. I say he ‘thought’ he was in pretty good health…that is… until a series of events happened a couple of years ago.
First, his employer wanted to do something to limit Insurance costs. The way they chose to do that was to pass out these little things… step counters or pedometers. It was actually a stroke of genius – by giving folks these step counters and challenging them to average at LEAST 10,000 steps per day, they could improve the well-being of employees, which in turn should reduce insurance costs. See this is based on the principle in business that you can only improve what you can measure. Up to that point, the only measures they had of employee health was the number of sick days and the dollars spent on healthcare. Step counts made it personal…THIS was something each person could individually control.
Jerry accepted the challenge and put on his step counter that first day – going about his normal daily routine – but at the end of the workday, he only had like 4000 steps! He had spent most of that day at his computer. Yikes – this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought! He went for a jog that afternoon managed to beat the 10,000 steps that day – but then came the next day. He wasn’t in the habit of jogging EVERY day, so how was he going to make up the steps he needed? He got creative. He parked his car at the far end of the parking lot so that he’d have to walk further to and from his desk. He started hitting a local park once a day just to go for a 30 minute walk while praying his rosary. By changing his HABITS, he was able to start averaging 15,000 steps per day… which he felt really good about. Not only that, but he noticed he had more energy during the day and actually LOOKED FORWARD to his exercise time. Jerry’s life changed because of that little device. Our lives change when our habits change.
Second, Jerry didn’t like to go to the doctor… in fact; he hadn’t been for a Physical in 5 years or more. When he caught the Flu that year, he went to the doctor who twisted his arm into scheduling a physical. So, he went through the normal blood tests and poking and prodding which nobody enjoys… and as he went home he thought, Great – done with THAT for another 5 years… Until the phone rang the next day. There were some abnormalities in one of the tests, and they were sending him to get a couple of follow-up tests. As you can imagine, THAT got him worried… what did they find? Was he going to die? His mind went to the worst-case scenarios, and by the time the results of the second test came back, he had worked himself into a tizzy. The doctor explained that it was SERIOUS, but He could probably control it by changing his eating habits.
A DIET!? Yuck, Jerry thought, my life is over… if I can’t eat what I want, I won’t be happy. But, like any good wife would do, his wife Brenda jumped on board with the doctor’s orders and helped Jerry to change his eating habits. Jerry was surprised to find how much he LIKED salads and Kale… things he avoided at all costs before the diet. He missed the ice cream, but soon found that Sherbet was a decent substitute. He noticed that he was sleeping better and had less head-aches than he used to have. Who’d have believed that he could improve how he felt by changing what he ate!? Jerry’s life changed because of his diet. "Our lives change when our habits change." (special thanks to Matthew Kelly for this phrase)
What’s all this have to do with the readings today? The first line in Paul’s letter: “Now is the hour for you to awake from your sleep”. Jesus’ words in the Gospel: “Stay Awake” and “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
The theme for today is to wake up. It is sooo easy for us to get in a rut – to let the routine of our lives carry us along so that we don’t even realize where we are slipping. We don’t even realize we have unhealthy habits. We need something to trigger us to stop, look around, and make a course correction.
So the Church gives us Advent – a time to do a spiritual health check-up. Ask ourselves: am I better off than I was a year ago…? Do we have any way to actually KNOW we’re better or worse? I mean – how do you measure SPIRITUAL health? I guess you COULD measure how many times per week you go to Mass, how many times you pray a rosary, meal prayers, Eucharistic adoration, how many Catholic books you’ve read, how many Catholic CD’s. Those aren’t necessarily a good measure of spiritual health, but like taking your temperature tells us if there is an infection in our body, our prayer life might be a good indicator of how healthy we are spiritually.
WAKE UP! Are you in a rut? ARE you closer to Jesus than you were a year ago? Regardless of the answer to that question, what can you and I PLAN to do start TODAY so next year we CAN honestly say we’re growing spiritually. I Mean, if I just keeping doing whatever I have been doing, can I honestly expect to GROW in spiritual health? If we’re not growing, we’re dying. So what can we do this Advent? What habits can we start NOW that will change OUR lives?
I have several ideas:
1) Get yourself a Journal and every day write down what God did for you that day
2) Bring it Mass and write down the one thing that God shows you that you can do better this week
3) Schedule a prayer time: for example, Get out of bed 5 minutes earlier and start your day in prayer
a. You can read the readings of the day
b. Read a reflection – sort-of a 1 minute homily - there are many ways to get these: email, internet, an app on your phone, and actual books like the Magnificat
c. You could do an examination of conscience: walk through your day looking for what went well, where you need to thank God, and recognize where you could have done better… then think through the day ahead and ask for God’s Grace
d. Or follow the prayer process – these little cards are at all of the doors for Free. It’s a simple outline to help you to hit the key points of prayer…to start to build a personal relationship with God.
4) Pick up a Catholic book and read one per month.
5) Listen to a Catholic CD each week
6) Join a Bible study… we’re going to start one on Tuesday nights in January… more info to come
7) Make a Cursillo – it is a short course to learn what it really means to be a Disciple of Jesus
8) Join a faith sharing group – we have several meeting weekly. Catch me if you’re interested.
9) Come to Eucharistic Adoration: Wed at SR, Fri at SC – or stop in either church…we’re blessed that we have our churches open 24 hours a day. Stop in for 5 minutes on your way to or from work.
10) Pray a rosary together as a family – once a week – or even every day. Or go for a walk and pray a rosary – thereby exercising your body and your spirit at the same time.
11) If you’re not praying at meals, start now
12) Read the Sunday readings together as a family one evening – maybe even discuss what YOU think the homily will be about
13) Sign up to have your house blessed: There will be more information in the next few weeks, but Father and I would love to come Bless your house. We’re going to leave some nights open in January and February and you can sign up. Then – invite your neighbors to do the same: as long as we’re in the neighborhood, we may as well bless a bunch of houses the same day/night.
Obviously, these are just some random ideas to help all of us get off the starting block… to WAKE UP… to push ourselves out of our every-day routines and form new habits, to do a spiritual check-up… Am I closer to Jesus that I was a year ago? Am I satisfied with my spirituality? If I ask Jesus about my prayer life, would HE be satisfied?
Start a new habit today…Our lives change when our habits change.