First Sunday Of Advent 2020
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: November 29, 2020
“It’s time for our 2 minute drill”!
As most of you know, I worked at Dofasco Steel for 30 years and as you can imagine safety is absolutely critical!
With liquid steel at 3000 degrees Fahrenheit, high pressure gases like oxygen; buildings and structures over 300 feet high, there is so much risk of people getting hurt.
Over time we developed many safety procedures and tools to help improve our safety results with a decrease in injuries of over 95% at my time there.
One key tool we introduced was the 2 minute drill. When you think about safety, many times people review the safety hazards first thing in the day for whatever job they were working on.
This is good, however, we found that many injuries occur later in the day as the situation changes and so we introduced the 2 minute drill to take just 2 minutes to review what has changed and does the team have to adjust to ensure that injuries are prevented.
This focus on situational awareness is what I think Jesus was trying to tell Peter, James, John and Andrew in the gospel today.
He says twice…Be aware, keep awake…in other translations be on guard, take heed, stay alert!
This short parable is interesting as the disciples would understand it well. In those days a wealthy home owner would have a housing complex like a large square with a centre courtyard and different rooms around the centre.
At one end would be the door or gate to the outside and this is where we would find the porter or doorkeeper situated who would keep watch.
They worked 4 hour shifts or watches to ensure they were alert looking for either animals or people that would do the family harm or potentially steal from them. The doorkeeper would be focused to prevent this and also to ensure when the owner came home, he was let in immediately.
The guard was not to be sleeping or napping, but instead to be situationally aware, checking the surroundings constantly for any changes.
In our spiritual lives, Jesus is calling us today to have this same vigilance each day and not “sleep walk” so to speak through our days and weeks taking things for granted, but instead being aware throughout the day of God working in our lives.
I believe God works in our lives in 2 ways which we need to be aware of…first, when he comes into our lives to help us and guide us; and second, when he brings others into our lives who need our skills, talents, or presence to help them.
So firstly, we need to be aware of God coming into our lives, so we don’t feel like the ancient Israelites in the first reading today who lament “why do you hide your face from us” “why do you let us stray” – in other words we don’t feel your presence in our lives.
When we pray each morning or throughout the day, God hears and many times answers us in ways we don’t recognize if we are not aware. We may pray simply for a good day and God may answer with a phone call of a friend we haven’t talked to in a while who makes us smile.
Or maybe we will have a moment with one of our children or grandchildren that makes us laugh or eases our stress and that is the answer to prayer.
God may come in the form of a co-worker who shares a snack or a story that makes us feel thankful.
It is hard to see these things if we don’t pay attention, if we don’t look for God working silently through the hands and feet of the people who come into our lives.
Which brings us to the second way God enters, in giving us opportunity to bring His love and care to others.
In can be in the smallest things but they lift people up more that you would believe.
One example is something that happened to me this week. I was being a chauffeur and dropping people off for a quick hospital blood test and I was waiting with my car while scrolling through the news on my phone.
I didn’t realize I left my lights on and the battery on the car died!! Oops! So I started to think who could help me and for some reason (maybe the man upstairs?), one of our parishioners popped into my head so I called them on my cell phone.
They didn’t even hesitate, grabbed their cables and truck and drove down the boost of the batter and my rescue!
It’s a great lesson, because to be God’s hands, you need the tools and you need the willingness to other focused.
How many people does God bring into our day for us to “boost”?
Maybe it is a struggling student for a teacher?
Maybe it is a frustrated person in the line or a cashier at Fortinos who just needs someone to listen to their frustrations about Covid?
Maybe it is an aging parent who just wants a phone call to know that someone still cares as they are so isolated?
This first Sunday of Advent, as we have this time of “Holy waiting” for Christ to come into our lives, God is asking us to be awake, to be alert to His presence in our lives through those who come to us and those we go out to see.
As we are told into 2nd reading from St. Paul “you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait”, it is only for us to tap into this well spring of holiness and love to go forth.
So how do we increase this awareness? What is our 2 minute drill in the spiritual life?
The good news is that we have this in our Catholic tradition with a nighttime examination of conscience!
Now we don’t have to follow the Jesuit model for this which is 5 steps and may take a little more time than we would need as beginners.
But lets try 2 minutes and do a simple review each night before bed….for one minute think about who God brought into our day to help build us up; and for one additional minute, who did God bring into our lives to help.
And maybe we recognize that we didn’t accept that person God sent, or we didn’t help the person we could have, but each day as our awareness grows, we can improve as we walk our spiritual journey of faith.
Let us be ready each day, let us be prepared as we never know when God comes into our lives, which form he comes, who he may send (to help or to help us) – be open to God entering each day!
And each night let us say: “It’s time for our 2 minute drill”!