It was almost summer. It was coming up on Summer break. It was almost 3 PM. And it was Biology with the most boring teacher in the school! I fell asleep! The sun was pouring into my side of the classroom. The windows were open and a breeze was blowing through them. The teacher’s voice was hypnotically droning on and I fell asleep! And I got caught! “Mr. Powell! Can you tell me why they Lymphatic system is so important to our bodies?” Lymphatic system? What in the world was that? I was half-dreaming of riding my mini-bike when I got home. Needless to say, I got extra homework on the Lymphatic system. By the way, did you know there were between 600 and 700 lymph nodes in the human body?
The startling jar of waking up someone napping is pretty humorous for those not on the other end of this shock. But sometimes you have to wake someone up for their own good! Now imagine not the napping of a body, but the dangers of the sleeping of the spirit of a man. Someone so disconnected from the spiritual life that they are, in effect, asleep to the needs and hungers of the spiritual life. That man needs to wake up! Because if he stays “asleep” in his soul, he’s going to sleep right through all the attention and wisdom he needs to embrace the fullness of true life.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Mark 13:31-37: 14:1-2: The Lord said to his disciples, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning — lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him; for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people.”
The centrality of the spiritual discipline of “WATCHFULNESS” cannot be overemphasized. Newly recognized St. Paisios said:“When our soul lives carelessly without watching over its thoughts, it will consequently fill up with dirty and sly thoughts.” But how do we begin to develop a watchful heart and not allow carelessness to fill up our lives with the filth of modern life? We begin by hearing and believing what our Lord declares to us today. He emphatically declares that heaven and earth may pass away, but His words will never pass away. So, our watchfulness begins with prioritizing knowing, reading, and embracing God’s word in our everyday lives. But the mere reading of the scriptures is only the beginning. We must read these holy scriptures with the Mind of Christ preserved in His Church. We must read the lives of the saints and learn how they lived the scriptures and not merely read the scriptures. This attentiveness to the Holy Scriptures begins to wake up our inner selves and feeds our spiritual selves and strengthens us with the exercises of faithfulness and the gaining of wisdom from the Holy Scriptures all in the context of His Church.
Having begun the process of staying awake, the benefits of this spiritual faithfulness allows us to be ready when the “Master of the House” comes and, being awake, we can receive Him. But there is so much distraction in our everyday lives, isn’t there? We struggle just to remember what we are suppose to do that evening. All the more reason to insist that my day have a moment, a scheduled time, to devote myself to the spiritual discipline of watchfulness.
Today, are you awake? Are you watchful? Is your attention to your spiritual life as focused as you are on your career, your family, your income, your hobbies? Do you have a set time everyday that you can stop and feed your soul? Just as your stomach will growl when it’s hungry, I wonder if you can hear the growling of your soul hungering to be fed with that spiritual food that truly nourishes? Why not wake up to this season of the Church year and determine that this Great Lent you will discipline your physical stomach so that your spiritual self can be fed with that “food” that heals forever? As we approach Great Lent, it’s time to wake up to being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. As Great Lent approaches and the Sunday of the Prodigal Son is upon us, join me Sunday Night at 8 PM Eastern for a new Faith Encouraged LIVE as we talk about the power of Repentance. That’s Sunday on AncientFaith.com