Tomorrow is the first day of Advent. Soon we will be singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. If we ever wondered if we need Jesus in our world, we only need watch the news these days. The suffering of innocent people, especially children, is so very painful to watch. It is heart wrenching to see war-torn areas where land is polluted with military hardware, and basic human needs are not being met. Powerful organizations and nations run roughshod over Creation and human rights, exercising their power and control, and violating the ancient commands from Genesis to “serve and protect” the Garden (Earth) and from Deuteronomy to “love your neighbor as yourself”.
In today’s first reading, Daniel was deeply disturbed over some similarly terrible scenes. He vividly saw the empires that dominated the world of his time, and he anguished as we do when cherished spiritual values were being violated. Daniel was one of the many Jews taken into exile in Babylon, who were persecuted for their faith. We recall the story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den”, when Daniel and his companions were saved from being devoured by lions, by the power of God.
Jesus did not flee from this imperfect and hurting world either, and following His example, Christians work for justice and peace. In order for us to accompany those who are suffering, and to persevere in working for justice and peace, we need to be prepared spiritually. And in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples (and us) how to do that:
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.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man. –Luke 21:34-36
Could sobriety regarding substances, turning our lives over to God in trust, vigilance, and prayer be the spiritual practices we are called to do this Advent?
Patty Gillis is a retired Pastoral Minister. She served on the Board of Directors at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit. She is currently a member of the Laudato Si Vision Fulfillment Team and the Passionist Solidarity Network.