Jesus tell us today, ‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’
In other places in the Scriptures, Jesus tells us the parable of the Ten Virgins who were awaiting the arrival of the Bridegroom as well as the parable of the man who filled new barns for himself only to have God show up and say, “This day your soul will be required of you.” And again, Jesus remarks that the people he lived among knew how judge what type of weather was coming but didn’t know how to read the signs of the times. And again, He tells us that if the homeowner knew when the thief was coming, he’d lie in wait. And again, He reminds us that our end will come with the suddenness of a woman going into labor and, yet again, that the measure that we use to measure others will be the measure that’s used to measure us.
So we cannot say we were not warned. It doesn’t take a prophet to discern the fact that our lives–our faith lives, our family lives, our business lives–will be significantly changed during the coming year or two. This fact is being driven by economic and political forces which were also, to some extent, driven by our (read: Christians’) ennui, enthusiasm for entertainment and entrapment in the ‘cares of this life.’ The changes that confront us are also a testimony to the fact that we follow a Crucified Christ and so we know that the way He was treated is the way we will be treated.
Like any good parent or friend, Jesus isn’t trying to scare us. He’s trying to prepare us. That’s why He tells us over and over to “Stay awake, pray at all times. Lift up your heads, your redemption is at hand.” That’s why He has stayed with us and not left us orphans, as He promised, by means of the Church, Her Sacraments, this season of Advent and this Year of Faith. That’s why He cautions us against becoming too comfortable in this world or accepting too much of what this culture of death has to offer us and our families. Like a virus, we tend to assimilate and become “coarsened” with the violence, the foul language, the scorn and the death and dungeons ‘entertainment’ that washes over us everyday. Soon enough, we begin to make excuses or turn a blind eye to attitudes in our own hearts or situations in our own families that, not too many years ago, would have been considered “debauchery.”
This Advent, Jesus asks us to “See what I see and treasure what I treasure.” By a simple whispered prayer to the Holy Spirit everyday, the ‘eye of our hearts’ can be purified (that is, opened) to use Christ’s own sight to navigate in this world that is rapidly passing away. He is here. He wants to help us. All we have to do is ask.