Watch & Pray

Watch and pray. Jesus warns us to be on guard. The word advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which simply means coming. The Lord is coming, and He wants us to be ready.

If you think back to the Gospel and my homily from two weekends ago, they were actually on this same discourse of Our Lord, but as it was recounted by Mark. I emphasized the importance of understanding Christ’s words on multiple levels because that’s how He intends us to understand them. So, you’ll remember that the sun is what is most meaningful, darkness is death, and the Son of Man coming in a cloud is the restoration. Restoration in the sense of His ascension, restoration in the sense of His second coming, and restoration of our soul by grace in the Sacrament of confession.

How do we prepare for the coming of the Son of Man? Luke includes some words from Our Lord that are not present in Mark’s Gospel. He says, “Be on guard that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life” (Lk 21:34).

Most people today are caught up in the secular spirit of Christmas, which goes directly against this warning from Jesus. Don’t be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness. What does dissipation mean? It means excessive indulgence. For many people, they may not say that Christmas is about indulgence and alcohol, but that’s how they live. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good meal and a good drink. They are gifts from God that are meant to bring joy to our hearts and bring people together. The problem is excessive indulgence and drunkenness. Many Catholics today don’t seem to be aware that getting drunk is a mortal sin. Not just drinking and driving, but drunkenness itself. It’s mortally sinful because it is the willful giving up of your will and reason for pleasure. The movie Pinocchio gives a powerful image of this. When Pinocchio goes to Pleasure Island he and the other boys are told that everything is free and they can indulge as much as they want. Soon we see that there is actually a price, the boys turn into donkeys. That’s what indulgence and drunkenness do. They turn people into donkeys. Like I said, it’s mortally sinful stuff and it needs to be confessed before going to communion.

The other temptation that the world presents and Christ’s warns us to be on guard against is anxiety. How many people are worried to death about all of the things that have to be done between now and Christmas? Buying presents, going over the budget, planning parties, cooking, decorating, and so on? It overwhelms a lot of people. Why because things aren’t in the right order. We worry about what others think, we’re trying to impress, we think relationships are on the line, we’re overspending, we don’t have enough time. Then Christmas comes and goes and it is a disappointment. We aren’t ready because we are worried about too many things.

I want to share with you a quotation from St. Bernard of Clairvaux on the three comings of Christ. He says, “We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they have pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved.”

During advent we look back to the first coming of Christ to prepare for his second coming, and the middle coming, St. Bernard tells us, is the road between the first and the second. We walk this road by allowing Christ to dwell within us by his grace. With that in mind, I would like to give 3 simple encouragements to counter the three sins that Jesus warns against:

  1. Register for “Best Advent Ever” from Dynamic Catholic. Just Google “Best Advent Ever” and you’ll find it. They will send you an email each day with a short reflection video and some reading. It will help you immensely in staying focused on what is truly important this season and keep life properly ordered so that you don’t become anxious.

  2. Add a spiritual discipline to your daily schedule. Pray the rosary or spend twenty minutes reading Scripture, something that will give more strength to your spiritual life. I am going to try praying Matins at its proper hour in the middle of the night. We’ll see how that goes.

  3. Make a good confession sometime during this Advent season. To make a good confession means first making a good examination of conscience. You’ll find an examination of conscience in this week’s bulletin. I am available in the confessional for at least a half hour before each Mass. There will also be there is also the hour of adoration on Wednesday evenings during which I am in the confessional.

Christ is coming. Prepare the way of the Lord. Watch and pray this Advent season so that you are truly ready for Christ’s coming.

Scott Murray