December 1995

The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.

"Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come" (Mt. 24:42)

You have probably noticed how often your life just drags on without being fully lived. Don't you find yourself always waiting for "tomorrow," in expectation of that something "beautiful" it will bring? There is indeed a "beautiful tomorrow" in store for us, but it is not the one we expect.

A God-given instinct leads us to look forward to something or someone that can satisfy you. You look forward to a holiday celebration, a vacation, or some special encounter; but then, when everything is over, you are not satisfied, or not fully satisfied. And you start over in your daily routine, without conviction, always looking forward to what's coming next.

The truth is, that among the many events which are part also of your life, there is one that no one, including you, can escape...the face-to-face encounter with the Lord who is coming. This is the "beautiful tomorrow" you are unconsciously looking for because you were created for happiness, and only he can give you full happiness; and he warns us,

"Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come"

Be vigilant; be alert; be awake, because there are many things you might have doubts about, but one thing is certain...some day you will die. This, for a Christian means the encounter with Christ.

Like many others, perhaps, you try not to think of death. You fear that moment, and try to live as if it were never going to come. You root yourself firmly in your earthly existence and by doing so you say, "Death frightens me; therefore it doesn't exist." Yet that moment will come because Christ will certainly come.

"Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come"

Here Jesus is referring to his coming on the last day. Just as he left his apostles and ascended into heaven, so, too, one day, he will return.

But these words also refer to the Lord's coming at the end of each person's life. After all when a person dies, for him or her the world ends.

Since you don't know if Christ will come today, tonight, tomorrow, or in a year or more, you need to be vigilant. You need to keep watch just as people do when they know a thief is coming to rob them but they don't know when.

Jesus is going to come, an this means that life is something passing. But that doesn't mean you should undervalue it. On the contrary, you should give it the highest importance. You should prepare yourself for that encounter with him by living a worthy life.

"Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come"

You should be vigilant. Your life is not merely a peaceful succession of events; it's a struggle. And different kinds of those connected to vanity, to the attachment to money, to inordinate sexual behavior, or violence...are your main enemies.

If you remain vigilant you won't be taken by surprise. Those who love are always vigilant. Vigilance is a characeristic of love. When you love someone, you are constantly watching and waiting for him or her to come. Every moment away from the one you love is spent with that person in mind. For instance, a wife whose husband is away thinks of him as she goes about her work or as she prepares something for him. Everything is done with him in mind. Consequently, when he comes, her greeting contains the many moments of joyful work which have filled her day. He does the same. When a mother is caring for a sick child her thoughts are with him even when she is resting

In the same way a person who loves Jesus does everything with him in mind, encountering him in the simple expressions of his will in every moment, and preparing for that solemn moment of encounter with him that will take place on the day he comes.

This what happened one day in Brazil.

In Santa Maria, in southern Brazil, a gathering for spiritual formation had just ended. It had been attended by 250 young people, most of who had come form the city of Pelotas.

The first bus left with 45 people singing joyfully as they travelled along. They were filled with love for Jesus. At one point some of the girls started to pray together, asking for the grace to remain faithful to God to the end of their lives. A short time later, the brakes of the bus failed and it went out of control around a curve, rolling over three times before crashing down a 150 foot cliff. Six girls died. One survivor said afterwards, "I saw death, but I was not afraid because God was there."

Another said, "When I realized I could move, I knelt near the bodies of my friends. I looked up at the starry sky and prayed. God was there with us."

The father of Carmen Regina, one of the girls who died, said that she used say, "dying is something beautiful, Dad, because you are going to be with Jesus."

"Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come"

The Girls from Pelotas were watchful because they were loving; and when the Lord came, they went to meet him with joy.

Chiara Lubich