Reflection on the Kingdom – Stay Alert
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong and let all that you do be done in love. 1 Cor 16, 13
From the middle of May when the government slogan changed from “Stay Home” to “Stay Alert” I knew that one of my reflections would have Stay Alert as its title. At that time I had in mind this passage from 1 Peter 5, 8-9.
Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary, the devil, prowls around looking for someone to devour.
However, even just a little reading revealed that there are many more references to “stay alert for the coming of the Lord” than to “stay alert for evil”. We need to be alert to all that is happening, both good and evil, so that we are not caught off guard. Staying alert was important for the early Christians. Their lives were fraught with danger from persecution from when Saul watched Stephen being stoned to death. Then there were conflicts within the churches as they struggled to turn Christ’s teachings into a new way of living. Who could join? Just Jews or Gentiles as well? If so, what could they eat, did they need to be circumcised? Who had authority to decide things in the group? To teach? Above all how could they stay true to Jesus? They had to stay alert to discern where God was leading them.
Like the early Christians we need to be alert to what is happening and to discern where God is leading us. There have been many difficult challenges and changes. For some of us the ending of lockdown is proving to be a bigger challenge than the beginning. At the beginning it felt safe and it was clear what needed to be done. But now that the lockdown is ending, the opposite is happening. It is difficult to decide what it is safe as the instructions keep changing. It is difficult to trust what is being said because so many people are saying different things. it is difficult to watch as some people flout the guidelines for a variety of different reasons. So we need to be alert but we also need to be equipped to deal with the issues we are facing. Right now, it is good to remind ourselves that we have already been equipped to cope with this and every situation. In baptism we were baptised by water and the spirit. At confirmation, the bishop prays for the candidates:
Let your Holy Spirit rest upon them:
The spirit of wisdom and understanding
The spirit of counsel and inward strength
The spirit of knowledge and true godliness
And let their delight be in the fear of the Lord. (cf Isaiah 11, 2-3)
God has given us these gifts to help and guide us throughout our lives. They are there for us especially when life is difficult or we are living in changing times. Now is the time to foster them, by prayer, by reflection, by bible reading. We will become increasingly alert to what is right and what is wrong, to what is true and what is false.
May the strength of God guide us
May the power of God preserve us
May the wisdom of God instruct us,
May the way of God direct us
May the shield of God defend us
May the host of God guard us
against the snares of evil
and the temptations of the world. Patrick c. 389-461