Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Little Something Extra...First Sunday of Advent


On this first Sunday of Advent, the Church invites us to reflect on the coming of Jesus, not only as a little Child in Bethlehem so long ago but also at the end of time when He comes in glory and as He enters our hearts now every time we receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, in the Holy Eucharist. 

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that we must prepare for His coming. We must be ready to welcome our newborn Lord at Christmas when we recall His coming among us as the God-Man. We must be ready to greet Him on the last day, either when He arrives in splendor on the clouds or when He comes to us quietly at our last breath. We must be ready to accept Him gratefully and lovingly into our hearts each time He visits us in Holy Communion. 

Jesus also offers us some crucial advice to help us prepare: 

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life... 

Beware. The Greek word here is prosechete. Pay attention. Turn your mind to this because it is critically important. Be intent upon these words. 

Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy. In the Greek, the verb for “become drowsy” is barēthōsin, which means becoming weighed down, oppressed, and heavy. 

Is your heart, the very core of your being, heavy and oppressed? Is your spirit sleepy and sluggish? 

What would make a heart drowsy? Jesus lists three possibilities. First, carousing. The Greek word here actually refers to the giddiness that comes with intoxication and then the hangover that arrives afterward. Certainly this physical reaction to alcohol would weaken one's spiritual awareness. But what if we use this word in a metaphorical sense? What if we allow our emotions to ride a roller coaster, flying with the ups and crashing with the downs of life? Would that, too, not hinder us from being aware of and prepared for Jesus' coming? 

Second, drunkenness. This word, too, refers to intoxication. Again, we might think of physical intoxication through alcohol or other substances, but people can also be intoxicated by other strong, power, fame, the approval of others, anything that blinds the judgment. Are you intoxicated by anything in your life? 

Third, the anxieties of daily life. At first glance, this heart-wearying possibility doesn't seem to be in the same category as the others. But think for a moment about the effects of stress on a person's physical, mental, and spiritual health. The Greek word for “anxieties” here is merimnais. This word refers to something that divides the mind and draws it in different directions. Our daily cares can distract us by splintering our attention, pulling our minds away from Christ, and exhausting our hearts. Are your daily anxieties doing this to you? 

Jesus warns us. Beware, He says. Don't get distracted. Don't allow yourselves to be drowsy with the pleasures and temptations and cares of this life. Focus on Me. Then you will be ready to greet Me whenever I come.

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