Various motivational speakers remind us of the importance of vigilance and perseverance in achieving personal fulfillment. Stephen Covey, in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” urges us to be proactive, to begin with the end in mind, and to prioritize crucial tasks.
Similarly, Og Mandino offers numerous quotes to inspire improvement in any chosen endeavor, emphasizing that determination to succeed can outweigh failures.
Tony Robbins, one of the best-known motivational speakers, once said, “I challenge you to make your life a masterpiece. I challenge you to join the ranks of those people who live what they teach, who walk their talk.”
These speakers all focus on living a purposeful life, one that brings personal contentment and satisfaction. A life with a purpose that creates a difference in the lives of others has something to share with the world.
In Mark 13:33-37, Jesus speaks of His unexpected return, with the exact time unknown. He instructs His disciples on their duties during this period of waiting, emphasizing the need to “stay awake” through a parable.
What does “staying awake” mean, and why was it significant for the disciples?
The term “awake,” derived from the Greek word ‘agrupneo,’ means to be both literally awake and figuratively attentive and ready.
Attention is crucial in task accomplishment. Contemporary concepts like Attention Intelligence (AQ) highlight this, comparing its importance to Intelligence Quotient (IQ) in workplace success. AQ aids in maintaining focus on people and problems, controlling selective attention, and staying on task (Tawakol, 2019). A person attentive to their work is thorough, accurate, and consistent, working to high standards with minimal supervision. This approach minimizes errors, optimizes time use, and reduces the need for oversight.
Conversely, inattention can lead to costly errors, affecting not just the individual but the entire organization. Such mistakes, often resulting from carelessness, negligence, or selfishness, can have significant repercussions, including financial loss, property damage, or even loss of life. As we can see, social and political unrest are rampant. Many injustices had not been resolved, the issues of disappearances, extra-judicial killings, suppression of freedom, and oppression of the poor, to add on the pandemic and war happening in the whole world.
These are the work of people who are not attentive to what is currently happening. Works that devalue humanity, creation, and the preservation of the life which God has given us. A manifestation of unpreparedness and unworthiness to face the Creator and the Giver of life; unpreparedness to the second coming of Jesus, or even to come to the table to celebrate the essence of Christmas.
The distraction and disturbances created by not staying awake will then be the tribulations of many who are called to follow Jesus’ ministry. These might be the foreseen tribulations during Jesus’ time which can be encountered by the followers of Jesus. He knew that these might cause disturbances and distractions, fears, and doubts for the disciples to continue their ministry.
Staying awake, therefore, is ensuring that the task being given is the primary concern of the individual. Staying awake means surviving the tribulation. Each of us is given a task that we need to carry on, and staying awake is giving our full attention to that task. Making sure that the created movement or process will never be distracted and or discontinued because of the trust and confidence that we can perform the work/ministry while waiting for the second coming of Jesus. Staying awake means moving on undisturbed, carrying the task wisely, and thriving above the discomforts that life may bring.
I conclude with a story about A.J. Muste, a Dutch-born American clergyman and pacifist who protested against the Vietnam War. When asked by a reporter if he believed his solitary protests in front of the White House could change national policies, Muste replied, “Oh, I don’t do this to change the country. I do this so the country won’t change me.”
We are provided with the many blessings, I am beginning to learn, that blessing is not the absence of the discomforts, blessings are opportunities to express the encompassing love of God to people and creation. In becoming a blessing to others, one must hold on to the message, “Stay awake.”
This advent season is a time to wait and prepare to celebrate Christmas, may we all be found “awake” in fulfilling the ministry that God has given us. Our task to bring the essence of Christmas to the world, most especially to the less fortunate and vulnerable, will keep us awake until we sit at the table to celebrate with joy, love, and peace with God in our midst.
Gospel reflection of Divine G. Naoe of the United Methodist Church for the First Sunday of Advent