We must be always vigilant, awaiting the day when we will be called from this life to meet our Lord to be judged. This Gospel reading is from Matthew 24 (42-51), which is full of such warnings. It’s a good idea to read this chapter to get a good sense of the importance of doing what our Lord tells us today: “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42).
We are fighting a spiritual battle. The devil wants nothing more than to drag us into the pits of hell, and he will begin that by making us forgetful of the call of our Lord. He will do it slowly, of course.
So slowly and subtly that we will not even notice until the day we are called. We would be the servant who convinces himself that the master is long delayed. What happens to him? The master “ will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matthew 24:51).
How do we make sure this does not happen to us? First: everyday, make an examination of conscience, a general and a particular. A general examination looks at your whole day and we ask the Holy Spirit to help us find areas where we did well, and the sins of commission and omission that we fell into. We ask God for help to do better. A particular examination examines a particular point or virtue that you are trying to grow in. Then when we go frequently to confession, we will know what we must confess.
Another way to live with increased vigilance is an ancient custom called the “day on guard” or the statio. The Christians would fast and do penance twice a week in order to receive the Eucharist with greater purity of soul and to pray for those in even greater danger or need. What a great practice it would be to set aside one day a week to live with greater intensity offering some penance, extra prayers, and greater charity toward our brothers and sisters in the faith. We must help one another, and if we live this day on guard, we will be like the faithful sentry looking from the watchtower. If we do this once a week, we will realize its importance and we will be drawn to live this everyday. The person across the pew from you, right here, your family, the people in New Orleans suffering from the flooding, or the Italians who were devastated by the earthquake are all in need. “Realise that the Holy Church is like a great army in battle array. And you, within that army, are defending one ‘front’ on which there are attacks, engagements with the enemy and counter-attacks.” (Saint Josemaria Escriva, Furrow, 960).
This day on guard will be lived well if we have recourse to the Blessed Mother, “harbor of the shipwrecked, consolation of the world, ransom of captives, joy of the sick” (St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, 2). We can pray an extra rosary, pray the memorare, the Litany of Loretto to ask her help.