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Center for Action and Contemplation
A Contemplative Heart
A Contemplative Heart

Be Awake

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Richard Rohr reflects upon Jesus’ teaching his disciples to “be awake,” which Richard understands as the key to authentic religion:  

In Mark 13:33–35, Jesus tells his disciples, “Be awake. Be alert.… You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or in the morning.”  

Most of us probably hear such a passage as if it were threatening or punitive, as if Jesus is saying, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” But Jesus is not talking about a judgment. He’s not threatening us or talking about death. He’s talking about the forever coming of Christ, the eternal coming of Christ … now … and now … and now.… 

Christ is always coming; God is always present. It’s we who are not! Jesus tells us to always be ready, to be awake, to be fully conscious and expectant. It’s the key to all spirituality, because we usually are not.  

Most of us just repeat the same routines every day, and we’re upset if there are any interruptions to our patterns. Yet God is invariably and ironically found in the interruptions, the discontinuities, the exceptions, the surprises—and seldom in the patterns. God has to catch us literally “off guard”! 

I often say to myself “Just this!” even amidst the things I don’t want, I don’t expect, and sometimes don’t like—“in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or in the morning.” [1]  

The great task of religion is to keep us fully awake, alert, and conscious. Then we will know whatever it is that we need to know. When we are present, we will know the Presence. It is that simple and that hard. Too much religion has encouraged us to be unconscious, but God respects us too much for that.  

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the last words Jesus spoke to his apostles were, “Stay awake.” In fact, he says it twice (see Matthew 26:38–41). The Buddha offered the same wisdom; “Buddha,” in fact, means “I am awake.”  

Staying awake comes not from willpower but from a wholehearted surrender to the moment as it is. If we can be present, we will experience what most of us mean by God, and we do not even need to call it God. It’s largely a matter of letting go of resistance to what the moment offers or to quit clinging to a past moment. It is an acceptance of the full reality of what is right here and now. It will be the task of our whole lives.  

We cannot get there by any method whatsoever; we can only be there. The purest form of spirituality is to find God in what is right in front of us—the ability to accept what the French Jesuit and mystic Jean Pierre de Caussade (1675–1751) called the “sacrament of the present moment.” [2]  


[1] Richard Rohr, Just This (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2017), 37–38. 

[2] Adapted from Rohr, Just This, 31–32; Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence, book 1, chap. 1, section 2. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Taylor Wilson, Ruah (detail), print. Izzy Spitz, Chemistry of Self 3 (detail), digital oil pastels. Izzy Spitz, momentary peace (detail), digital oil pastels. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Like this simple shape, the contemplative heart is found in the simplicity of everyday life. 

Story from Our Community:  

As an Enneagram One, I have always had a strong sense of right and wrong, good and bad. I easily left relationships and community organizations whose values did not precisely reflect my own. But recently, in reading the CAC emails and listening to James Finley’s teachings on the recent season of Turning to the Mystics on Meister Eckart, I have found my heart opening to loving and accepting people and organizations as they are. I’m beginning to truly recognize that we all have both good and bad within us. I am experiencing my heart softening towards all people, including myself. —Denise H. 

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