It is a cartoon by Martin Espramer,OSB, of a young woman sitting in a chair asleep with something like a broom leaning on a wall behind her and an angry bald headed man standing over her. I don’t quite get the scene, is it a girl and a teacher, a cleaning woman and a boss, a father and a daughter? I am not sure and I am not inclined to accept the angry looking man as a God-figure-or the view that God is angry at our shortcomings. But I am sure that I do fall asleep on the job. I am sure that I do too much and reflect too little. I am sure that I am not often true to my nature anymore because I rarely take time to be quiet, to experience, to think, pray, and ponder, appreciate, and write poetry. I am such a complex combination of needing to work actively for the kin-dom and live the social justice teachings of Christ and the church as in our Matthew 25 readings of last week, and needing to stop and be quiet and share the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in words and poems. With that dual focus balance is needed and I have lost it for the time being. I am running (away) too much, as Janda suggests and as the prophet Isaiah (63:17) suggests when he says we are wandering far from God. I can identify with Isaiah’s feeling that even our good deeds are polluted and we have all withered like leaves (Isaiah 64:6). I know when I am “off balance” because I get grumpy and angry and exhausted. I feel very much like a withered leaf. I have often said that it is God’s creation, particularly the life abundant at my little lake that grounds me. And yet, there are days when I do not spare even the few minutes it takes to step outside and feed the ducks, ibis, fish and turtles and appreciate the deep beauty and meaning of those moments-the “Thank you, God!” and restoration that those moments bring. There are times when I let that which means the most to me become just one more chore. But, whenever I make even the slightest effort I am rewarded with peace and joy and awe of that God who restores us (Psalm 80) and strengthens us (I Cor 3:9) and is, as Isaiah says, our Mother/Father and the potter who shapes and molds us with care and love.
So, I appreciate Advent when we are to stop a while and open our eyes to what is around us and really see it, as if for the first time. That is what alertness and being watchful means to me. Not to wait for something or someone to come, but to open my eyes and see who is already here and what is surrounding me. To really see and experience the moment. The beautiful spiritual poet J. Janda captures this need to watch, and see. (This is from the St. Louis website, under Spirituality of the Readings ontextweek.com)