19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus Ameh
Readings: Wisdom 18:6-9; Psalm 33; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48
Theme: Deadly Slumber
In 2004, during the annual convention of the Young Catholic Students (YCS) of Abuja Archdiocese, as a seminarian on holiday, I worked with the organizing committee to plan for the convention, being a former YCSer myself. Accommodation was insufficient at the venue, so those of us in the committee had practically no place to sleep. On the second night, I went to the boys’ hostel late at night when most of the students had gone to bed for routine check, then I noticed a very small boy lying on the upper bunk of one of the beds. Below him was an older boy from my alma mater secondary school, so I appealed to him if he can share his bed with the younger boy (whom I later learnt was also from the same school) while I use the upper bunk, and he agreed. Then I tapped on the small boy to wake him up, but he wouldn’t. After trying unsuccessfully several times, I lifted him from his bed and put him in the lower bunk. At about 5am the next morning when he woke up, he stood for like a minute, looking at where he slept and where he woke up, but he did not say anything. Later that night, the same scenario played out, and the next morning, like before, he still stood and was looking, in a state of confusion. Then he woke the older student on whose bed I put him and asked, “Brother, why is it that at night, I will sleep on the upper bunk and by morning, I will wake up on the lower bunk?” And most students who were already awake burst into laughter.
I share this story because of its relatedness to the theme of staying awake that Jesus repeatedly hammers on in today’s gospel. Jesus says to us to stay awake, stand ready and keep watch, principally for two reasons: first is that the Son of man of man will come at an hour we do not expect and secondly, satan will have the opportunity of breaking into our lives like a thief in the night if we are not vigilant. The little boy I spoke about in my story said he slept up, and woke up down, and this happened at a time when he was not awake. It is to prevent such an experience in our spiritual lives that Jesus says we should stay awake. Many Christians have been brought down low from the spiritual heights they have attained because they failed to stay awake, rather, they slumbered, a kind of slumber that is deadly. In the parable of the wheat and weeds, Jesus said the sower sowed good seeds, but while men were asleep, the enemy came and sowed weeds (Mat 13:24-25). Child of God, there is a kind of slumber that is deadly and a Christian must do everything possible not to fall into it. It is against such deadly slumber that Jesus enjoins us today to stay awake.
The tricky thing about this deadly slumber is that sometimes, we do not even realize we have fallen into it. The devil just drags us gradually into it that we become spiritually tepid. While we still profess Christianity and may even appear outwardly spiritual, in essence, we fit perfectly into the class of those Jesus says are neither hot nor cold and whom he shall consequently spit out of his mouth (Rev 3:15). This deadly spiritual slumber will make us hold positions in church without having a relationship with God; this deadly slumber will make us solemnize evil by finding excuses to explain why they are harmless; when we are in this state of deadly spiritual slumber, we lose the sense of the sacred such that we can do in the house of God, with the things of God and to the ministers of God, things that should ordinarily make us shiver. People chew gum in church; some people dress indecently or inappropriately to church; people steal from the church, sometimes as committee members that have dealings with funds, some also steal other people’s property, even from the Chapel of adoration; people disrespect and even plot evil against God’s ministers, and it means nothing to them all because they have slumbered and the devil has come into their lives like a thief in the night and sowed weeds.
Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus says to us today, STAY AWAKE! So we will do well to always keep the admonition of St. Peter in mind where he says, “Be calm, but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet 5:8). May the grace of the Lord Jesus help us not to be caught off guard! Amen