Gentle Promptings of Grace

August 31, 2023
Thursday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
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“Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Matthew 24:42–44

Our Lord contrasts the call to stay awake with those who are asleep. Clearly, by stating “Stay awake!” so emphatically, Jesus is also telling us that it is easy to fall asleep, spiritually speaking. So are you more often awake and attentive to His presence? Or are you most often asleep and therefore unaware of His presence?

First of all, this exhortation must be understood as a reference to our passing from this life. And though most who are younger do not expect to pass suddenly and unprepared, we know that this does happen. It could happen to any one of us at any time, unexpectedly and without warning. Therefore, we must see this passionate exhortation from Jesus to be a clear warning to always be ready to meet Him in our particular judgment upon our passing from this life.

With that said, this passage is also an invitation to become increasingly aware of the countless ways in which Jesus speaks to us each and every day. The goal of the Christian life must be to be continually at prayer. This does not mean that we are necessarily “saying” prayers all day every day. Rather, it means that we form a spiritual habit of becoming continually attentive to the promptings of grace given to us throughout our lives. God wants to lead us always. He wants to inspire us with His grace every day all day. He wants us to have one eye on the things that occupy our day and the other eye upon Him, allowing Him to gently lead us through everything.

Sometimes we can fall into the trap of thinking that God is only concerned about the big decisions of life. But the truth is that God is most clearly found in the details of life, even the smallest ones: a short exchange of words with a family member, a smile at a co-worker, a kind gesture to a stranger, and a random prayer offered for an anonymous person in need of that prayer. All of these are but a few examples of the many ways that God wants to commune with us every day throughout the day. And this can only happen if we are continually awake and attentive to His gentle promptings of grace.

How is this accomplished? How do we become attentive to God as He speaks to us and guides us every moment of every day? It is done by forming a spiritual habit of ongoing prayer. We begin by setting aside time for prayer every day, time in which all we do is pray. We set aside all distractions and begin by offering prayers, meditating upon scripture, attending the Mass, speaking from our hearts, etc. But from there, this special time of prayer, set aside exclusively for God, must begin to have an effect upon us throughout the day. And when we get distracted by the things of the world, we stop again, focus exclusively on God, and invite Him to be with us yet again. And then this is done again, and again, and again. Prayer must become a consuming habit by which God becomes present to everything we do. When this happens, we become spiritually “awake” to Him always.

Reflect, today, upon this clear and concise exhortation from our Lord. “Stay awake!” Let those words resonate within you. Hear them as a call to form this holy habit of prayer throughout the day. If you do so, God will slowly take over your life and lead you each and every day into His holy will. And through you, God will be able to extend His love and mercy to many who are in your life and beyond.

My demanding Lord, You desire me to live my day, every day, in such a way that I am continually attentive to You. Please help me to form a holy habit of listening to You and responding to all that You say to me always. My life is Yours, dear Lord. Lead me continually by Your gentle Hand of grace. Jesus, I trust in You.

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Featured image above: Agony in the Garden, via Web Gallery of Art