Be Vigilant and Alert at All Times

On New Year’s Eve, most people normally keep vigil to welcome the New Year. In most traditional cultures, people stay awake to usher in the New Year or to celebrate the gift of the New Year.

Christians also stay awake on the eve of the New Year, to welcome it with hearts full of gratitude. Hence, many people do this with prayers of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament as a community, as private individuals or with family prayers. This eve is always marked by its thanksgiving character. Thanksgiving to God for his blessings in the passing year and for the gift of the New Year. In addition, this New Year’s Eve is also a moment for New Year’s resolutions.

Staying Awake and Looking Ahead

Today is the eve of the Church’s new liturgical year. Jesus tells us today to be vigilant and alert at all times for his coming. A life of vigilance remains indispensable for us Catholics especially because our liturgical year begins and ends with the admonition to vigilance. Advent is thus not only a preparation for Christmas but also for Christ’s Second Coming. The season of Advent brings us the magnificent vision of life and hope for the future given to us by Christ. When Christ says stay awake, that implies, we have a future with him. And this future is prepared in our present day.

Staying awake does not only mean waiting for that glorious future but being proactive about our mission on Earth. We can follow St. Paul’s suggestion: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead (Phil 3:13). Staying awake means not allowing anything to paralyze me from the passing year. It means making plans towards spiritual growth, through daily study of the Word of God, Eucharistic celebration, private prayer etc. It means looking inside myself regularly or keeping an eye on myself and looking ahead.

Eyes on Christ

Looking ahead does not mean allowing ourselves to be weighed down by the worries of this concrete life or the uncertainties of the future. When we are tempted to worry too much about our future, may we not forget what the Lord told Martha: “only one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41). That one thing is setting our eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Looking ahead helps us to remember that the strength comes from Christ and not from us. It helps us not to give up on our plans for spiritual growth when the going becomes tough. Let us remember that Christ expects us to stay awake not only at the beginning and end of the liturgical year but throughout the whole new liturgical year, because through our vigilance against evil and vigilance for the needs of others, we contribute to the growth of His kingdom on Earth.

[Readings: Dn 7:15-27; Lk 21:34-36]

Fr. John Opara

Fr. John Opara is an associate pastor at St. Johannes Lette Coesfeld, Germany. He has a doctorate degree in Sacred Liturgy and is a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Orlu in Nigeria. Email: johnugofr@yahoo.com.

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