By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS,OCSO, Commentary | Published October 6, 2016
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”
A friend of mine recently sent me a letter enclosed in a little note card. In the letter she writes about hoping for some good news from her doctor for a medical problem. The card has a picture on the front of three little kids sitting on a curb. They are waiting for a parade. Looking at the picture, I thought back to the days when my brother and I would sit on the curb in front of our house. I do not think we were waiting for anything or anyone. We just sat there, chatting away, occasionally glancing down at the ants at our feet, or to the street and its patches of tar on the concrete, or at the occasional Air Force jets that roared directly over our heads as they maneuvered for a landing at Mitchell Air Force Base, just a few miles away.
It was a time in life when the tediousness of “waiting” had yet to make its claims on our appetites for hope, for expectancy, for wanting one thing or another. We were just content to sit on that curb, watching big things in the sky and little things at our feet.
Jesus tells his disciples a parable in the hope that they will learn to be vigilant, to be ready when the Son of Man returns. Just when the Son of Man will return is unknown. The disciples are asked by Jesus to be in a constant state of readiness, of waiting.
We get older, and the carefree watching of childhood morphs into waiting. Adulthood brings in its wake a seemingly bottomless reservoir of things for which we must wait. Like my friend who waits for hopefully good news from her doctor, we all have our daily experiences of waiting for something to happen or someone to see or somewhere to go.
I want to capture with words an important aspect of what those times were like sitting on a curb some 60 or so years ago.
It was, I suppose, a time of innocence. We did not yet know that there were bigger and better things for which to wait. We were content with our little slab of curb, the ants, and the jets. And we were vigilant. The present had an easy and immediate claim on us. Maybe that is why I remember those times so well. The many distractions that would come much later had not yet arrived. With them would come scattered thoughts, the need to focus, the effort to remember details from the flood of information that assaults the average adult day in and day out.
The monastic journey encourages one to be vigilant. It is a life stripped of options and excess, and it asks that we wait for the coming of the Lord. It asks that we wait patiently and not fill our lives with distractions, with busy-ness, with wayward and false expectations. Monastic wisdom is not just for monks. It is a source of wisdom open to all. And it is the same carefree vigilance that I had a long time ago, sitting on that curb with my brother. We were happy, taking in life as we saw it, the big and the little, our eyes and hearts set on nothing better than looking at ant parades and big jets.
Sixty some odd years have passed. My eyes are not as good as they used to be. But I don’t need perfect sight to see who I am waiting for. Funny thing is, this life has given me the chance to see life the way I did on that curb. In the stillness of the days here, I watch the little and big things. Same little and big things, but with a difference. I know they came from a good and loving God, and so I wait and watch, knowing that he will, in his own good time, arrive.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at www.HolySpiritMonasteryGifts.com.