It seems we’ve been focusing on being awake this week and today is no exception. In fact, I want to really dive deep today in the central wisdom of the Church that teaches you and me to “BE” awake to what is most important in life.
And that’s because it seems in our modern world there is an increasing amount of troubles, temptations, violence, demands, politics, morality confusion, technological discoveries, mindsets, and messages all with the intent of keeping you and me asleep! “Asleep to what?” you may ask. And the answer is asleep to the central focus of each human life: To know God and to become like Him. You see, when you are awake to that reality, you see all the other challenges of life, of society, of pain, disappointment, fear, politics, morality, and even happy events, in their proper perspective. Asleep to that focus, and all we do is do what we are doing; grasping and lurching from one extreme to another and always wondering why Peace is so elusive to us all.
Look at our lesson today in 1 Corinthians 16:13-24:
BRETHREN, be watchful, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. Now, brethren, you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints; I urge you to be subject to such men and to every fellow worker and laborer. I rejoice at the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicos, because they have made up for your absence; for they refreshed my spirit as well as yours. Give recognition to such men. The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. All the brethren send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. If any one has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.
“Be Watchful” and “Stand Firm” and “Be Courageous” and “Be Strong:” with these words, the Apostle Paul reveals to the Corinthians the heart of our timeless Orthodox wisdom of actually being Orthodox on purpose. But he begins with “Be Watchful.” The Greek word there is “νήψατε” and it is in the imperative form. You know what that means, don’t you? Yeah, it isn’t a suggestion. It’s an imperative, a command! I would go further and suggest that my ability and your ability to do the rest of what St. Paul tells us, Stand Strong, Be Courageous, Be Strong, and even “Let all you do be motivated by love,” is only possible if I do this very first command – Be Watchful!
And, for centuries, we Orthodox have heard a multitude of fathers and mothers of the Church tell us the same thing. Wisdom through the centuries reveals to us the central importance of this watchfulness, this awakeness, AND how to be watchful. But, the truth is, until you know and appreciate just what is at stake you will never be fully able to appreciate WHY this work is essential and vital to your very life. And this isn’t just about your eternal life and your preparation for your own mortality. This command to be Watchful, to BE Awake, is at the heart of every aspect of your everyday life as well. Your relationships depend on you being watchful. Your career depends on you being watchful. Your children and their well being depends on you being watchful. This wisdom isn’t just about you being a “good Christian” as much as it is about you being a truly human person, fulfilled and complete.
Sounds important, doesn’t it?
And here is the key to watchfulness: The central vision and constant contemplation of the Lord Jesus. It is this very central reason St. Paul finishes his wisdom to the Corinthians with the stark and jarring words “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.” My ability to be watchful depends on my willingness to see Jesus Christ as the center of my life! Not just my “religious” life, as if my life can be compartmentalized into “different” segments. That foolish notion only leads me to a schizophrenic existence that keeps me a slave to my passion. No, this focus on contemplating Christ and knowing Him and loving Him goes to the very heart of my ability to “stay awake” to priorities and a focus on truth.
Today, is your life focused on Christ? Do you appreciate the intricate beauty of the Divine Liturgy to give you everything you need to be focused on Christ? Are you aware of the reasons why the disciplines of the Faith are all designed to keep you awake to your true purpose? At your feet lay all the tools and treasures you will ever need to know God and become by grace what Christ is by nature. Will you stay awake and BE?