Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
There is a story entitled, “What is the World Like?”  God and a man are walking down the road.  The man asks God, “What is the world like?”  God replies, “I can’t talk when I am thirsty.  If you could get me a drink of cool water, we could discuss what the world is like.  There is a village nearby.  Please, go and get me a drink. 

The man goes into the village and knocks at the door of the first house. A beautiful young woman opens the door.  His jaw drops, but he manages to say, “I need a glass of cool water.”  “Of course,” she says, smiling, “but it is noon.  Would you care to stay for some food?”  “I am hungry,” he says, looking over his shoulder.  “And your offer of food is a great kindness.”  He goes in and the door closes behind him.

Thirty years go by.  The man who wanted to know what the world was like and the woman who offered him food have married and raised five children.  He is a respected merchant and she is an honored member of the community.  One day a terrible storm comes in off the ocean and threatens their life.  The merchant cries out, “Help me, God.”

A voice from the midst of the storm says, “Where is my cup of cold water?”

I love that story and isn’t it a lot like our lives.  Life is what happens while we are making plans. What is the world like?  The answer of the story is that it is a place of forgetfulness.  Or, as both Paul and Matthew imply in our readings, it is a place where we fall asleep.  We do not stay attentive to the spiritual dimension of life.  Eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, working in the field, grinding at the mill take all our time and more importantly, take all our attention.  We find that we can go through life literally “asleep at the wheel.” 

So how are we to keep awake while working in the field and grinding at the mill?  It is not easy, even Matthew has to shout, Therefore, stay awake!”   Some spiritual gurus invite us to live each day of our lives as if it was our last day, but we simply can’t do that.  Being aware of our mortality does wake us up, as does a stroke, a heart attack, or cancer; but nobody can sustain that kind of awareness all the time. None of us can live seventy or eighty years as if each day was his or her last day. Or can we?

The distractions, cares, and pressures of everyday life will always fill each moment and we will, in effect, fall asleep to what’s deeper and more important inside of life.  We need a spiritual routine  to wake us from our spiritual sleep.  Beginning each day with prayer is designed precisely to do that. It can be just a simple, "thank you God for getting me through the night, help me get through this day."  What happens if we don’t pray on a given morning is not that we incur God’s wrath, but rather that we tend to miss the morning, spending the hours until noon kind of half awake, half asleep at the wheel. Morning prayer wakes us up to the gift of another day. The same can be said about praying before meals. We don’t displease God by not first pausing to focus ourselves in gratitude before eating, but we miss out on the richness of what we’re doing.  Prayer and the Eucharist have the same goal. They’re meant to, regularly, call us out of our sleep.

None of us lives each day of our lives as if it was his or her last day.  But our heartaches, headaches, distractions, and busyness invariably lull us to sleep. That’s okay; it’s just part of being human. So we should ensure that we have regular spiritual routines, rituals, spiritual alarm clocks, to jolt us back awake  – so that it doesn’t take a heart attack, a stroke, cancer, or death to wake us up.