Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
First Sunday of Advent
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
Sunday, November 27, 2016
"Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:42
Nuit blanche is a French expression which literally translated is “white night” but as an idiom means “a sleepless night.” We occasionally have this experience, and it is not a pleasant one. We just cannot sleep. We toss and turn and finally get out of bed frustrated that our needed rest is evading us. Doctors over the years have told me that when a nuit blanche strikes, I should get out of bed and do something. So, I do. I rise, pray, read, and sometimes write. And with a little patience and time well spent, I return to sleep.
Well, our Lord invites us to a nuit blanche. “[S]tay awake!,” He says, “For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42). This nuit blanche is important because depending on how we stay awake will depend whether or not we are ready to meet the Son of Man (Matthew 24:44). This is the meaning of what for some remains this enigmatic reference to two men in the field or two women grinding at the mill (Matthew 24:40): “one will be taken, and one will be left” (Matthew 24:40, 41). There is no hidden meaning to this. It is rather an obvious way of saying one will be ready and one will not.
The nuit blanche in the here and now is Advent. The Church brilliantly fashions the liturgical year, which we begin today, around the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Advent is the time set aside for us to reflect seriously and thoughtfully on our readiness. Are we like the people in Noah’s day, who ate and drank and married “up to the day that Noah entered the ark” (Matthew 24:38)? Or, are we like “the master of the house” who knew the hour of the thief’s coming and could confront the threat (Matthew 24:43)?
These are the questions we must ask ourselves. In the nuit blanche of life we can fool ourselves and try to get back to sleep. But for the one knows how to address this sleepless night, filled with worries and concerns, annoying and disturbing thoughts, we arise and await patiently.
We should take this message of our Lord as a warning. There is no doubt in my mind about this interpretation. But at the same time we should be reassured. For the one who arises from the concerns of this world, has a strong faith and a steadfast hope, there is no reason to fear.
Our Lord and His Church, as the Body of Christ, gives us a very good remedy. It is called confession or the Sacrament of Penance. Unburdening our soul, relieving our conscience, being freed of the disturbances that fly around us like a nightmare, we can return to peace. What better way to stay awake than to address the disquiet of the soul and arise from the dark night of sin?
May the sleepless night of Advent be an opportunity to greet the Lord who comes to knock at our door at a time known only to Him. May He find us watching and waiting.