The second reading for the Twentieth Sunday in ordinary time continues with Ephesians, chapter 5:15-20, and the exhortation for holy living. The NAB translates the first phrase in v.15 as "watch carefully how you live," which the NRSV translates "be careful then how you live." I like the translation of the NAB because of the focus on "watchfulness." One of the most difficult aspects of living life for me is living life with watchfulness. It is easy to fall into patterns, to live life by rote, to find a comfort zone where watchfulness just drifts away, even if that comfort zone is filled with unreflective busyness. How I live is not always based on conscious decisions, which is precisely the issue. You begin to do things because that is the way you have always done them, or you simply plop on the couch after a busy day, unable to consider what would be the best way to live.
Watchfulness or carefulness in life, the letter to the Ephesians says, is choosing wisdom over foolishness, understanding over ignorance. In some ways, this strikes me as even more difficult to do today than in the past because of the cacophony of voices and options, in terms of politics, education, entertainment, the media, and so on. So many of the options and voices, though, become noise, a sort of background drone, from which we desire to escape. This is why, it seems to me, it is so important to be clear about first principles as followers of Jesus. Though the rush of everyday life is like a veritable tug to make more and more decisions without thinking, we have to pull back from the fray and determine what is important in how we live. An increased focus on watchfulness in our lives should slow us down.
The NRSV says to make "the most of the time" (the NAB has, "make the most of the opportunity") and contrasts drunkenness, a thing of the flesh, in Pauline terms, with singing hymns to God, a thing of the Spirit. Perhaps in contradiction to most of the messages we receive today, "making the most of the time," is not a call to increase productivity or activity, but a call to think about the things of God, to reflect on our lives and our choices and to take time to make these decisions with watchfulness and care, as Ephesians 5:20 says, "giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."