To be awake and attentive in the manner Jesus addresses here is to be fully alive in him all the time.
This passage addresses a great mystery. It concerns, of course, the Second Coming of Christ, but it is more about how we should live our daily lives in relation to that great mystery. Though it concerns the transcendent idea of the end of time when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead for the final time, our focus is not to be on that moment, but rather on how we are living in this moment, right now.
Jesus’ exclamation, “Stay awake!” should startle us. It is startling precisely because more often than we may realize, we wander through life like sleepwalkers, or daydreamers, asleep to the graced, blessed, unique, and transcendent reality that is present in every moment. Jesus is not just saying “Wake up!” He is saying that our work in this life as his disciples requires us to always be fully awake. Awake to what? To the divine call to discipleship, to the command to love one another as he loved us in the here and now. In other words, discipleship is not just a concept of faith or a noble idea but a living, everyday duty.
This passage is not to be read or understood fearfully. We all know that physical death is a part of our mortal destiny and that it might come at an unexpected time for us. But it is not the reality of death, or the Second Coming, that is the driver behind Jesus’ message here. Rather it concerns how we should live our lives each day, indeed, each moment. We are not to be concerned about, or to fear our death, or the Second Coming. Rather, we are to be concerned about how we are living our lives as disciples of Jesus now, today, in this moment.
In order to be fully alive as a disciple of Jesus, we must be awake and attentive to his call for us to be his disciples in every moment, on every level. Are we actively “listening” to His Word by studying it? Are we actively developing the habits of a regular, consistent, prayer life? Are we consciously and actively opening our eyes to the workings of God that are all around us at all times? Are we awake enough to see the present needs of our brothers and sisters and courageous enough to serve those needs, even when that requires real sacrifices in the present? To be awake and attentive in the manner Jesus addresses here is to be fully alive in him all the time.
If we learn to be fully alive in the manner that Jesus calls us to here, we will be able to encounter our own deaths, or the Second Coming, the time of which is known only by the Father, without fear. If we are fully “awake” to God and his presence in our daily lives, we will meet our own deaths, or the Second Coming, buoyed by the grace of knowing that we have lived a meaningful and purposeful life in Christ. And if that is the case, we can meet death, or the Second Coming with joy. “Stay Awake!”