One of my spiritual mentors told me once, that when you commit to staying awake, you better be sure you want to go down that path, because once you are awake, there is no going back.
The truth of this has struck home for me throughout my life.
It was 1994 and my mom was dying of cancer. She was at home and I had been traveling back and forth between Chicago and Cleveland to be with her and help care for her. I was exhausted, and I remember a moment when I had lain down and all I wanted to do was sleep, but I needed to get up to give her her medication. The memory is so vivid for me because it took all of my conscious will to “stay awake” and get up when every other fiber of my being was saying “rest, sleep.”
When I reflected on it later, it was clear that love is the only thing that could have given me that strength. My mom and I are connected by, and exist in, a love much larger than each of us individually, a love made completely manifest only in God. Once we say “yes” to this love in our life, there is no going back. Once we say yes to the love freely given to us in the person and Passion of Jesus, there is no falling asleep. It sets us on the path toward being the “faithful and prudent servant” in Matthew’s gospel. And, as Paul says in today’s reading, “[Our Lord Jesus Christ] will keep us firm to the end.”
What a wonderful promise. The faithfulness of God and the incomprehensible love of Jesus frees us to act in love in situations that we would rather not be in, that are uncomfortable, that involve risk and loss. Life is full of such situations–we don’t need to seek them out, they will find us. On my good days, I am able to ask myself “In what situations in my life am I longing to sleep—or, perhaps, am actually sleeping?”
May God grant us all the grace to “stay awake!” and love.
Lissa Romell is the Administrator at St. Vincent Strambi Community in Chicago, Illinois.