A young man approached an elderly guru and asked him to share the secret of a happy life. The guru responded, “Pay attention.”
“Okay,” said the young man, “I’m paying attention. Now tell me your answer. What’s the secret of a happy life?”
“Pay attention,” the guru repeated.
“Hey, I’m hanging on to your every word.” The young man said. “Speak.”
Once more the guru stated, “Pay attention.” Eventually the young man got the message.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples and us to “Stay awake!” Usually we assume that this is a warning to be prepared for death. We do not know just when we will be called to give an accounting of our life. But we can also take Jesus’ words as a call to “Pay attention all day everyday.” Stay awake and notice the many ways the Son of Man comes to us in ordinary life.
Jesus comes to us in Word and Sacrament. He also comes to us disguised as poor, lonely and needy. He often speaks to us through the gifts and talents he bestows upon us. He wants us to hear his voice in our hopes and our dreams. He reveals himself in nature. He discloses himself through beautiful art, music and poetry. He even makes himself known through our faults and failures.
Speaking to his priests, one archbishop defined “contemplation.” He said it was “watching the Holy Spirit at work among your people.” We need to stay awake. In our crazy world, there is still a lot of goodness, truth and beauty all around. If we pay attention, we will find God (as St. Paul did) in people who are “richly endowed with every gift of speech and knowledge.” Then like St. Paul we will continually give thanks to our God for all the gifts he has bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.