Maureen Pratt

Have you ever looked at photos from a memorable event and thought, “Oh, no. I blinked!”

Oh, my, I have! More than once, too. And what a humbling sight to see yourself with eyes closed and maybe (even worse) a funny, half-goofy look on your face, among other, perfectly smiling, photogenic people.

Used to be that such pictures could be, er, dealt with. The negative could go missing, the spot in the photo album filled in with something less telling. Now, however, “the dreaded blink” is almost always indestructible.

Once taken, it can end up on social media and never die, but be joined by more such monstrosities because today, people simply cannot stop taking candid pictures. And, of course, although we know this, are we prepared any better? Oh, my, no. Or, at least, I never seem to be.


I thought of this recently when, on the First Sunday of Advent, Mark’s Gospel quotes Jesus saying to his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”

Those words spoken 2,000 years ago still carry immense energy and urgency. But sometimes, as life unfolds, we become lax (we forget the proverbial smile) and lose sight of why we are being vigilant, being alert in the first place.

Of course, Jesus was speaking about being ever ready for the moment when “the Lord of the house is coming.” But having just taken a bad picture at a crucial time, I think there are many other times when we forget the big picture (pardon the pun) and end up disappointed — or worse.

We are eating our way through the holidays — and probably allowed more than one dietary lapse to sneak onto our plates. By mindfully managing what we eat during the new year, we just might be able to get back on track for healthy eating — and not feel so guilty when we are able to feast … once in a while!

Advent and Christmas afford us extra opportunities for spiritual growth; how wonderful it would be to continue to build on those into 2018. A few minutes, a few prayers or sacred pages read, and we will strengthen our inner spirit — and have more resilience for moments when crises occur.


During the holiday season, we also take time to reach out to others, many of whom we have not seen or talked with throughout the past year. What about making those connections during the new year — and enjoying moments of fine fellowship while we and our friends are still able and still alive?

Preventive medical care (checkups, vaccinations, dental exams) can stave off unfortunate health moments in the coming months, and set up excellent habits for us and our loved ones (especially children).

Opportunities to offer comfort, assistance, a heart to listen, a hand to comfort — these will present themselves in 2018, just as they did in 2017. Our willingness to recognize these as ways to “Be watchful! Be alert!” is a powerful part of living out the Gospel as we wait for the Lord of the house.

During the recent fires in Southern California, I could see one of the smoke plumes not far from my apartment. I didn’t think I’d have to evacuate, but took the precaution of gathering necessary items anyway “just in case.”

When all was clear, and as I unbundled my luggage, I thought, again, to Mark’s Gospel and how what we do leading up to important moments makes an enormous difference in their outcome.

Whether it is for a photo or to go to safety or to greet the Lord, as we move through life, it matters to mind the moments.