Scripture reflections: Stay awake, praying at all times

19 November 2021

This week spend some time each day prayerfully taking stock of how ready we are to receive Jesus. First Sunday of Advent Year C, 28 November 2021


Lectionary readings
First reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 24(25):4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Second reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12 – 4:2
Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Link to readings

Today marks the beginning of Advent, a time of watchfulness, waiting and renewed hope, as we get ready to welcome the Lord into our hearts and lives this Christmas.

The First Reading focuses our gaze on God’s promise to David to raise up a ‘virtuous branch’. God fulfils that promise by sending his only Son, Jesus, into the world: our Saviour and King in whom we can have total confidence, who rules with honesty and integrity.

The Psalmist recognises the Lord as his Saviour, desiring to follow his ways of truth, love and faithfulness. We too join in the psalm refrain, ‘lifting up our souls’ in prayer, as we wait for the Lord.

Jesus foretells the end times in the rather ominous-sounding Gospel, telling his disciples to ‘stay awake’ and not get distracted by the ‘cares of life’. But he has a message of hope too: we don’t need to be afraid, for we will see the Son of Man coming to save us. God keeps his promises, so we can hold our heads high and stand confident in his presence. Meanwhile we can pray and try to lead good lives.

St Paul tells us how we can do this in the Second Reading. We are to live as Jesus teaches, ‘loving one another and the whole human race’, and putting Jesus and his values at the centre of our daily lives.

This week as I wait for the Lord, I may like to spend some time each day prayerfully taking stock of how ready I am to receive Jesus, however, wherever, and whenever he comes to me.

Jeremiah 33: 14–16
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made to the House of Israel and the House of Judah:
‘In those days and at that time, I will make a virtuous Branch grow for David, who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land. In those days Judah shall be saved and Israel shall dwell in confidence. And this is the name the city will be called: the Lord-our-integrity.’

Coming to my quiet prayer space, I make sure that I am in a comfortable position and begin to settle. I may like to light a candle – perhaps an Advent Candle – then consciously place myself into the Lord’s presence. I take a few moments to notice how I am feeling just now. Maybe there is something I am bringing into my prayer.

Taking several slow deep breaths in and out, I try to relax and let go of any busyness from my day. I can entrust anything that concerns me to the Lord, confident that he will hold it tenderly for now.

When ready, I read and re-read Jeremiah’s words slowly through, noticing where I’m drawn. I invite the Holy Spirit to help me ponder how the passage speaks to me ... how it makes me feel.

Maybe there is a particular word that stands out for me ... promise, virtuous, honesty, integrity, confidence, grow … ? Or something else? I mull it over and think why it’s significant for me.

As I ponder God’s promise, perhaps promises that I myself have made come to mind – and how I have fulfilled them. I know that I can bring any struggles I may have to Jesus, and speak with him heart to heart, perhaps asking for a particular grace I feel would help me. When I am ready, I gently bring my prayer to a close. Glory be …

Luke 21: 25–28, 34–36
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; people dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.’

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living being on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

After becoming still and aware of the Lord’s presence with me, I invite the Holy Spirit to guide me in my prayer. I then carefully read this very dramatic passage through several times. There is no rush: I can take as long as I like.

The words may give me a vivid image of the scene. Perhaps I picture the Son of Man coming in a cloud in glory. How would I feel to see this? … Could I ‘stand erect and hold my head high’? Or would I feel trapped and unready?

Maybe I ponder the ‘cares of my life’ as I reflect over the past year, taking stock, noticing the highlights and low-lights. What am I most grateful for? Is there something that’s made me unhappy? Is there anything I need to deal with before the year-end? Perhaps there is something I’d like to leave behind ... or build on? What would I like to accomplish in the coming year?

‘The clamour of the ocean and its waves’ may remind me of recent natural disasters – floods, tsunamis and rising oceans. I think of all those suffering throughout the world and entrust them to the Lord. Is there any way, no matter how small, in which I can help?

With a sense of gratitude, I recall the Lord’s help in my own times of sorrow or distress and the strength I’ve been given, maybe through the support of a friend, or the kindness of a stranger. As I slowly end with a prayer of my choice, I can rest with the Lord, confident that he dwells in my heart.

Prepared by St Beuno’s Outreach in the Diocese of Wrexham