Stay Awake. For you do not know when the time will come. Stay Awake, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay Awake.” Read Mark 13:32-36
Stay Awake! Three times Jesus repeats this challenge. Like the disciples in the day of Jesus, we are waiting for “the Kingdom of God to come, God’s will to be done,” the Lord’s prayer repeated, echoing the longing in our inner being. Yet, we grow sleepy waiting for the Lord to answer our questions and our prayers, to give us hope. And in the waiting of everyday life, we can find ourselves sleepwalking in attachments and responsibilities and doubts, which test our desire to follow Jesus.
This repeated challenge of Jesus to “Stay Awake,” comes after one disciple makes a comment about the beauty of the temple: “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and buildings.” (Mark 13:1) As Jesus often does, he surprises and warns, telling them the future destruction at the hands of the Romans, that no stone will be left on another. Wanting to know more, his inner circle of leaders Peter, James, John and Andrew, privately ask Jesus “when” things are going to happen. We all want to know. And they continued to ask this question even after the resurrection, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) This leads to a long discussion you can read in Mark 13 which ends with “no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” We wait and ask and seek what only God knows. Like the disciples, we can get caught up in the “stones,” the structures we have built that tie us to time and place, when we need to be about building the kingdom of God.
What then should we do? Jesus tells them a short parable: “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the door keeper to stay awake. Therefore, stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come.”
The Master, Jesus, has put us in charge while we wait, and entrusts each one of us with work to do. We grow weary in the waiting, but Jesus calls us to fully awake discipleship. His desire is that the “gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” He assures them that they will know what to say, “for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” (13:10-11) The Holy Spirit! Yes. Remember the last thing Jesus said to his disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” Acts 1:8
The Holy Spirit IS the presence of God within us, calling, healing, empowering, and awakening us to follow, to discipleship. Learning to hear the voice of Spirit, to stay awake to the work Jesus has given us as His servants, is a spiritual practice of discernment. Take some time to be aware of the Spirit, to sit in silent prayer and reflect.
Practice: Recognizing the Spirit Within
Listen to the Holy Spirit : Using a quiet moment and space, light candles and sit with the intent to listen to the Spirit. Say a simple prayer such as “Come Holy Spirit” to focus your attention. When your mind wanders, gently return with your prayer, “Come Holy Spirit.”
Spirit of God, thank you for being the presence of Christ within me. Your work in my life is amazing: You guide me into salvation, renew my dead spirit, and open my eyes to the Truth. Help me to recognize your movement in my life and be obedient to your leading. You know my pain and anxieties very well and pray for me when I have no words to say. Help me to awaken to you, O Spirit of God. Grow good fruit in my life. Fill me and empower me with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Reflect and Journal
What might awaken you to the voice of the Holy Spirit within you? Some ideas to consider: turning off noise, creation care, silent retreat, taking a Sabbath, starting and ending the day in God’s Word.
What might be keeping you asleep? Explore these: comfort habits, unexamined life, ambivalence, polarized thinking, physical pain, hurtful relationship.
Find a spiritual director/mentor or contemplative group that can help you discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. Intentional and regular time in shared listening and centering prayer will open your spirit and awaken your discipleship.