I’m probably dating myself but there’s a country song by Trace Adkins I used to love to sing that pops into my head whenever I read a Gospel passage like this.
Lucky for you, I’ll simply list the chorus lyrics here rather than sing it:
“Every light in the house is on
The backyard's bright as the crack of dawn
The front walk looks like runway lights
It's kinda like noon in the dead of night
Every light in the house is on
Just in case you ever do get tired of being gone
Every light in the house is on.”
How many of us “leave the lights on” for those we love, friends, or family? I turn the outside lights on for my children who will be arriving home late from sporting events. I turn the lights on for parents visiting for an evening birthday party. I make sure the lights are on and in good order when I know friends will be arriving for an evening gathering. My love for these people prompts me to light their path and show them I expect them and welcome them. In biblical language, I keep my lamps lit and full of oil.
As the days get shorter and nature, here in the Northern Hemisphere, begins her journey into hibernation, the Church reminds us to be vigilant. The readings more and more will give us a sense of urgency. Like a loving mother trying to keep her children awake just a bit longer, she reminds us that Jesus is coming and we need to be ready. The world outside grows darker and our eyelids are beginning to get heavy, yet she is ever vigilant and encourages us to be as well.
Be watchful. Why? Being watchful helps us in two ways. First, it keeps us on guard against sin. Satan doesn’t take vacations. He doesn’t sleep. He is patient, vigilant, and relentless. When our eyelids begin to droop (lack of prayer, no retreats, no confession) he is by our side in an instant. Being watchful and attending to our soul keeps Satan at arms length. Second, it helps us focus on the only One who can help us, our source of help and hope; Jesus. Like a lover impatiently expecting his beloved, there is no thought of sleep!
Gird your loins. What? In ancient days when long tunics were often worn, this phrase would instruct us to cinch them up. It meant to gather up the bottom of the tunic in such a way that it would allow one to work freely or journey without hindrance. Jesus is instructing us to keep working in this vineyard of the Lord and to not grow lax. He wants us to be ready to move, ready to journey wherever He may lead us.
Light your lamps. A lamp, as we have seen above, is not for us alone. These lamps of ours help us to see more clearly the path ahead even in the darkest of times. However, they also help others to see their way more clearly (do not put your lamp under a bushel basket). Our lamps are lives lived out of love for God and others. Their oil or fuel is prayer; deep conversation with God and the Sacraments.
As we continue this journey into darkness in both the natural world and in the Church in Her present crisis, let us be watchful and gird our loins. Let us also not only light our lamps but encourage one another to make sure each and every lamp is burning brightly. When the Lord returns let us pray that He remarks, “Wow, it looks light every light in the house is on!”
From The Saints:
"Once again the Lord reminds us that our attitude ought to be that of one about to start out on an important journey, or of one who is all prepared for the coming of an important guest. Christian life cannot be characterized by drowsiness and neglect." - Francis Fernandez, In Conversation with God Vol. V, pg 285
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How to get better at prayer.
- Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
- Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go. Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
- Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days. Mark off the days on your calendar. If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
- Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him. I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development. God is the same way. Spend time praying as best you can. Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation. Don't forget to listen
- Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life. It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
- Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer Primer, Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer, Time for God, The Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.