See – this week being Thanksgiving, some of us had company coming… so we spent last weekend and Wednesday evening, and probably Thursday morning cleaning – dusting – washing windows – moving furniture and cleaning up dust bunnies so big it’s a wonder the family pets didn’t get lost in them!
It’s not that we’re slobs,… well, most of us aren’t… but well – the clutter just sort-of gathers…it becomes part of the furniture… we don’t even notice it anymore. That is… until we have company coming. Then suddenly our eyes are opened to what a royal mess our house is, and we finally get serious about cleaning it.
I often joke that we need to invite somebody to the house at least once a month just to force us to clean up the clutter! We like it when the house is clean! We feel better about ourselves and we’re not embarrassed to invite other people to come on in.
Isn’t it the same with our spiritual life?
We sometimes go for months – even years – without cleaning up our act. Bad habits and sins gather in our character and just become part of who we are – we don’t even notice it any more… just like the clutter in our houses.
If company is what forces us to clean house… what is it that finally forces us to clean our souls?
That’s one of the Genius’ of Catholicism. Somehow the Church knows that you and I usually need to FORCE ourselves to stop, take a look at ourselves, and clean up our act. THAT is what Advent is all about. Advent means “God Coming”…. You and I have company coming in four weeks… and he wants to come live with you…. So we need to clean house. Is THAT our excuse to clean our spiritual houses?
You may have noticed that during Advent, there are always Reconciliation services to attend…why do you think that is? Because we usually need help moving the furniture and recognizing the clutter that we’ve grown so accustomed to… all those sins that have been accumulating since our last confession.
Advent is a time for us to Wake Up! Jesus said today – Watch Out! Stay Awake! We have to constantly be on guard against letting bad habits and sinful behavior become a normal part of our lives. We cannot become complacent.
Last Monday, I was headed to work in Newburgh – a drive I’ve made hundreds – maybe even thousands of times…. 15 minutes into my drive, I had just turned onto the highway in St. Anthony – As you come out of town going toward Bretzville – just after you pass the gas station, there’s a road that comes out on the right side of the road. Just as I got about 20 feet from that intersection, a car races up to the stop sign – slows down- and pulls out right in front of me. Fortunately, my reflexes are in-tact – and fortunately there was nobody coming in the other lane. I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop – veering slightly to the left. I probably missed him by only a couple of feet.
Now – if you’re like me – when you’re driving like that for a long period of time, it’s easy to kind-of get into the ‘zone’ – where you’re not really thinking much about driving. I often drive on auto-pilot, listening to a book or a Catholic CD or something like that. Fortunately, I’ve developed some GOOD habits of keeping my eyes on the road and watching out for traffic. Had I been distracted for that one second, I would likely not be standing here today. It highlighted for me the extreme importance of Jesus’ message today….Watch Out! Stay Awake! Another word for that is Vigilance.
I want to talk just a minute about this little candle. Know what it’s called? It’s a vigil light. Know what ‘vigil’ means?
Saturday night is even referred to as a vigil Mass, because it is celebrating the Sunday Mass the night before – so it would be easy to think that vigil is defined as ‘the night before’ or ‘opportunity to get Mass out of the way so I can sleep in the next morning!!!’.Actually, vigil means ’a watch kept during normal sleeping hours’…or in a religious sense, it’s ‘a service held overnight’. We’ve lost some of that meaning of the word, because, for example, the Easter Vigil used to start at sundown and end at sunrise!!! Can you imagine? Could any of us stay awake that long?
While Jesus isn’t really telling us to stay awake all night… he knows we need sleep to stay healthy. He is meaning we should keep constant vigil to not let ourselves be captive to sin. If a temptation pulls out in front of us, will we be able to react and slam on the brakes?
People light these little vigil candles for a reason….and you know, growing up Catholic, I don’t think anybody ever explain why they light them. You and I cannot stay here in church 24-hours-a-day… but these little candles do. So, when we have a prayer that we want to place before God, we light this little vigil light which keeps vigil for us… it stays awake, here in church, even when we cannot. It’s one small way that we can remain vigilant.
So… Use this Advent season to clean your house… to look at your own habits– to clean out the old clutter that has gathered, and to develop new ones. In short, Advent is when we prepare a manger in our soul for our company who arrives on Dec 25th. We each need to Clean our spiritual house, so we won’t be embarrassed to invite HIM in.