Standing Before the Son of Man
“Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” — Luke 21:36
I don’t know about you, but the prospect of standing before Christ, the Son of Man, on a Last Day either concrete or metaphorical, feels a bit daunting, to say the least. It’s not so much that I fear that in some final judgment moment I will be condemned and cast out, cast into hell. It’s more that I have 70 years of a life to account for, and I fear that the best part of them has been frittered away in pointless mental machinations.
During how many moments of my life have I really been loving? And, by contrast, how many hours have I spent being jealous, mean-spirited, self-centered and obsessed? In how many hours have I belonged to the world, totally consumed by its objectives, priorities and values? And in how many moments will it be seen that I have lived the Way of Love, belonging to Christ?
While I am alive, I need to try to tip the scales a little bit more toward the belonging to Christ side. And I think that that’s where the Advent call to be awake comes in. “Wake up!” we hear. “Be prepared!” Wake up and commit yourself to Love. Wake up and live into your relationship with God.
It isn’t easy. Much easier is just letting things slide. After all, everyone else is doing it. And apart from the little niggling of conscience when I know I haven’t seen with the eyes of Love, it’s simpler to ignore what might be going badly for my neighbor.
Waking up means getting better at serving others. Waking up also means that we keep growing. Christ needs us to keep growing because he reveals himself to humanity in ever evolving ways. There is nothing static about a relationship with God. If it is static, it is atrophying.
So it’s time to look at my spiritual practices. There’s my theology. Who do I believe God to be? Has my understanding of God gotten a bit too narrow, as evidenced by my failure to think about God much at all? Have I left it that God is just the author of pretty sunsets, so that I can stand in awe once a day and then go about my other, more worldly business?
There’s prayer. Prayer is the expression of my personal theology. As my way of communicating with God it needs to be brought up to speed as I change in my awareness of who God is. Do I speak well to God? More importantly, do I listen well?
And there’s service. Who do I belong to as I go about my business in the world? How do I serve God as I serve the people around me in all the moments of my day? When do I express my belonging to Christ in my care for others? What focus keeps me from being 100 percent present with my neighbor? Again, how well am I listening?
Waking up is not a goal just for Advent. But in Advent we can begin to put into effect those practices that make it possible to be awake all the time — or as much of the time as we can manage, for it’s an ever-changing process. We do this in hope and in the faith that we will be supported by Christ in our endeavor. May it be so.
And let it be a joyous experience for each of us to stand before the Son of Man on the Last Day.