Every year, I look forward to the First Sunday of Advent. In particular, I love the Mass readings for the day. To some, they may seem ominous, threatening that God will smite us if we don’t follow his Commandments to perfection at all times. There is truth in that – God is a loving Father, but he also is a just Power and we will have to atone for our sins. On the other hand, the readings for the First Sunday of Advent give great hope by promising redemption to those who diligently follow our Lord.
Each time I hear the readings, I’m affected in a different way. Today, a single phrase has caught my heart.
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
It’s clear to me that bad behavior such as drunkenness and carousing can separate me from God and prohibit me from redemption. But the anxieties of daily life? Isn’t that simply part and parcel of being an imperfect human in an imperfect world? I mean, seriously. Who doesn’t have things to be concerned about on a day-to-day basis? Anyone with any responsibility of any kind gets anxious from time to time about how things will work out.
Therein is the catch.
Being anxious about how things will work out – from the simplest task to the most crushing catastrophe – puts our focus on our own power (or the power of other human beings) rather than on God’s power.
When we allow ourselves to become anxious, we’re doubting God’s ability to handle the situation. Will he handle it in the time and manner that we prefer? Probably not. But he will handle it and in the end, all will be well. The evil one wants us to obsess over the anxieties of daily life so that we stop trusting God. Once we lose our trust in God, nothing divine makes any sense anymore, And so, if we’re steeped n anxiety when the hour comes, we won’t be fully prepared to turn ourselves over to the Lord.
It’s by no means easy to give up the anxieties of daily life, but it’s essential that we pray and strive for the theological virtues of love, faith and hope. That’s why Jesus warns us in the Gospel:
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
Our Lord will come in cloud with power and great glory – he said so himself – and when he does we shouldn’t be steeped in anxiety but rather should stand erect and raise raise our heads. For our redemption will be at hand.