on your guard…Stay awake!”
(Mark 13:33, 35): A Reflection for the New Year
by The Reverend Noel E. Bordador
There is a meditation verse, which comes from an Eastern religion that I have found so valuable, and I return to it daily. I want to share it with you. “Let me respectfully remind you. Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken! This night your life is diminished by one [day]. Take heed. Do not squander your life.” Quite sobering words indeed.
The words of the Jesus- “Be on your guard…Stay Awake!”- have the same sobering effect. These words shake us up from our complacency, boredom or even indifference that sets in as we live life day in and day out. Scary or harsh these words might be, we could, on the other hand, look at them as a gift, a gift to remind us to live life with a holy intention, to remind us not to waste our life with things that distract us from living a purposeful life, one marked with generosity, and selfless service. We know there are so many things in life that distract us from paying attention to the important things of life, important things such as our relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves. When I was a chaplain in a nursing home a few years ago, I had met many people who were at the end of their lives; and I had met a fair number with deep regrets over life, wishing that life came with a reset button. Though we affirm our belief in eternal life, this conviction should not take away from living our earthly life in a noble and beautiful way. Life on earth is indeed short. One day our earthly life will come to an end; we will die. We have no choice about this. But what we have is a choice on how to live life. We can live well, or we can live badly. It’s up to us. As we begin this new year, may we be watchful, vigilant, and awake to life so that we do not squander our life that God has given us… But what precisely do we need to be awake to in life? We need to be awake to God, to other people around us, and to ourselves.
We must awaken to God. Our life does not belong to us; it ultimately belongs to God. It is God in whom we live and move and have our being, so that there is not a moment in life when God is not present in our life. The problem, however, is that we are not always awake to the presence of God in our lives. God is often crowded out of our consciousness by other things that occupy us during the day. In our hectic lives, it is easy to give God the back seat. How do we then cultivate a habitual mindfulness of God in our midst? The answer simply (or not so simply) is to take time…take time to pray. The key is taking time, to take some time alone to commune with God. For us to cultivate a habit of being present and awake to God, we must have a discipline to stop in the midst of our busy lives and to stand or sit there long enough to hush the noise of the world and allow God to speak to us in the silence of our hearts.
We must awaken to others. St. Nicholas of Cusa once said, “The face of God is hidden, veiled in the faces of the people around us” (par.). People around us are to be loved because they contain sparks of divinity, and they reveal God to us. But in our preoccupation with our own agenda, it is easy for us to be oblivious to the needs of other people. So, for example, our preoccupation with our jobs or our ambition for advancement and recognition could make us spend less quality time with our loved ones. Our obsession with money and material things leaves us with no time to attend to the needs of the less fortunate among us. In order to awaken to people around us, we must take the time and sit back and reflect honestly how our way of living affects other people. Am I so self-absorbed that I do not pay attention to my loved ones? Does my way of life- my work, my spending habits and consumption of things- contribute to the well being of other people or does it not? Do my opinions, attitudes or speech promote harmony or discord? Such reflection should wake us up to any harm or hurt we have caused or done to others-intentional or unintentional- as a result of our lifestyle. And such reflection should produce in us a commitment to right any wrongs we have done. We are awoken to our responsibility for social justice.
We must awaken to ourselves. Saint Teresa of Avila said, “El centro del alma es Dios.” “The center of the human person is God.” We are, bodies and souls, living temples of the Holy Spirit. And so we need to awaken to true selves as dwelling places of God. We cannot know and love God or others apart from our bodies and souls. And because of this, we have the responsibility to care for our own bodies, minds and souls. And to do this, we need to take time to activities to refresh and rejuvenate our bodies, minds and spirits. Not taking such a time leads to ignorance of our selves, of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs; and this ignorance will make us feel alienated from our own selves a feeling that lead us ultimately to feel alienated in life. A discipline of self-care, therefore, is necessary to our spiritual awakening.
May we awaken to the presence of God in the wonders of creation, in his people, and in us. Amen.
2006 Noel E. Bordador
Noel Bordador is a gay Filipino priest in the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
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