The number of empty chairs in the high school classroom startled me until I remembered many of the school’s young people were heading to Indianapolis for NCYC (National Catholic Youth Conference). This three-day experience of dynamic speakers, praise and worship music, and newfound friendship draws over 20,000 teens from around the country. The weekend culminates on Sunday morning when Lucas Oil Football Stadium transforms into the house of the Lord, with thousands of young people receiving Jesus in the Eucharist and rejoicing in his presence. This mountaintop encounter awakens teens to a deeper faith. As I observed the few students remaining in their classroom, some sleeping on the desktop, I wondered if at least a few would regret skipping NCYC. There is nothing worse than not doing the work, missing the bus and sleeping through an opportunity — of being left behind.
This Sunday’s Gospel reflects on end times: “So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Jesus will come like a thief in the night —at end times or our own personal death — so be awake as this is THE opportunity you don’t want to miss!
As in the days of Noah, his neighbors lived as if they had all the time in the world. And then the raindrops fell, and they missed the boat. Jesus warns us to wake up. Don’t miss salvation! There isn’t time to lollygag, sleepwalk or spend our days mindlessly. Wake up early in the morning to pray and study Scripture. Do not be drowsy in committing to deeds of mercy. Be alert for opportunities to serve Jesus in the man shivering in the cold, the depressed teen, the newly widowed, the wheelchair-bound man, or needed time with a spouse or child. Be awake to sharing the good news of Jesus, who lifts us out of misery and claims us as beloved children. Be a light in the darkness. Light a candle for the hopeless.
As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s saving presence — by helping our children to realize that following Jesus is the MOST important choice one makes. We remind our children that standing for our faith can be hard, but it’s far better to be taken by the Lord than to be left behind by their peers. We can fortify their faith by giving them the perspective of eternity when making decisions. We do not want them to miss any good opportunity on earth through laziness, indifference or sleepiness, but if they miss THIS opportunity — eternal life, they’re sunk.
I’m sure many young people slept on the long bus ride home from NCYC, but hopefully they are forever awakened. If they continue to follow Jesus through prayer, study and living the beatitudes, they will be ready when the Lord comes either at death or end times. Until then, we are each called to be fully awake, rejoicing as we climb the mountain to the house of the Lord for Mass, where we receive Jesus in the Eucharist. If so, we won’t miss THE opportunity of a lifetime — heaven. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Now, that’s good news!
How will you awaken your children to faith during Advent?
How will you prepare for the Lord’s coming?
Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: www.marypedersen.com.