As we begin this new liturgical year, we are admonished to “Be watchful! Be alert!” As a Marine, I was often tasked with guard duty. The Marine Corps general orders describe the standards for which guard duty is to be conducted. I would like you to imagine in your mind a Marine at his post, standing tall, always alert, protecting those who rest because he is alert. There are actually 11 general orders, but here are just a few.
- To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
- To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
- To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
- To quit my post only when properly relieved.
- To talk to no one except in the line of duty.
- To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
- To be especially watchful at night, and, during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.
With great pride I stood my post, as generations had done before me, and as many Marines stand guard even now all around the world. We remained alert and at the ready, because the enemy is looking for an opportunity.
And so it is with Christ’s church. We are called to stay alert. “Be watchful! Be alert!..Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming…May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”
My brothers and sisters, the enemy is real, and to sleep on your watch is to invite distraction and destruction. For 2,000 years, the church has stood ever vigilant, ever watchful for the return of Christ. Good Christian soldiers have been baptised and confirmed and have stood their post with their eyes ever on the horizon. And now it is our turn to stand tall, be on guard, to stand our post.
That’s what advent is, it is not only a celebration of when Christ came to earth as an infant 2,000 years ago, it is also mindfulness of his return at any hour. So stay awake! How do we do that? Well, first of all, stay awake! Too many Christians have fallen into a slumber. The enemy is able to attack when we rest–so don’t. Heads of households, fathers and mothers are called to put up a shield to protect their children and grandchildren. With daily prayer as a family, and prayer on behalf of their children, and those whom their children hang around or will someday marry. With examples of love and generosity, mercy and forgiveness. With steadfast commitment to serving the church as ministers and contributing to the financial needs of the church and missionaries. With frequent and regular reception of the sacraments of reconciliation and Eucharist. By studying sacred scripture and the teachings of the Church. In all these ways we stay awake; we stand guard. We walk our post ever alert.
Stand guard, Christian soldiers. Stay awake. The enemy lurks. He never rests. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’