We begin advent, a journey of waiting and preparing to be more welcoming to God. I challenge everyone to take a look at how we understand prayer and how we pray. It involves attentiveness to God’s presence. Jesus emphasizes the need to stay awake.
In our second reading, St. Paul says “You know the time; it is now the hour for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation now is nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).”
Obviously, this does not mean that we should stop sleeping, sell our beds, fill up on coffee and try to be awake 24/7. We are still human and cannot function that way. So what does it mean?
“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 (Luke 21:34-35a).”
Notice two sources of drowsiness: pursuit of pleasure and anxieties of daily life. This should remind us of the parable of the sower (See Matthew 13:1-23). Seed that is sown on rocky ground withers because of some tribulation or persecution. Seed that is sown among weeds is choked by worldly anxiety and the lure of riches.
Perhaps being drowsy involves being so focused on the pleasures we pursue and the tasks and worries that pursue us that they fill our whole mind, and we start to think they are all that there is. We have heard stories of those who would spend all their time either at work or at the golf course and lost contact with their families, and they became strangers. The idea is not to remove all pleasure from our lives, nor to neglect our tasks, but to put them in proper context of our relationship with God. Heaven knows we struggle to balance the parts of our lives that are always competing for our attention, and they can be overwhelming. On vacation I read a book called “Juggling Elephants” about sorting your life like you were a ringmaster coordinating a three-ring circus.
I would ask you to consider some questions:
What if prayer is more important than you have thought it is?
What in our behavior shows that God is a dear friend to us?
Do we treat Him like a dear friend?
What if everything depended on a bit more prayer each day?
Is there anything else we do that we can shave just a couple minutes off from to make just a couple more minutes for prayer?
Even a brief minute attending to the presence of God several times a day can make a difference. What if we resolved this advent to make a bit more room for God every day? We might be surprised, first that we can do it at all, and second, how good it is to do it.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, patron Saint of doctors, mothers, and unborn children, pray for us and for our nation. Help us be attentive to God’s presence in everyone, especially the weakest and most vulnerable.