"Be vigilant at all times"
I must admit, I have been more than a little worried since reading and reflecting on today’s gospel. This is ironic of course, as today’s gospel warns against worrying. That’s the thing about worry-it’s a vicious cycle.
In telling of the coming of the kingdom, Jesus said to his disciples: "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from . . . the anxieties of daily life and that day catch you by surprise like a trap." Throughout the gospels, Christ has warned us again and again that the coming of the Kingdom will be unexpected. We won’t be getting a notice in the mail. There won’t be a designated period of preparation where we can finally get around to living our lives the way we know we should-it will be like lightening, like a thief in the night, or here, like a trap. This isn’t news, right? I know I heard my mom say "like a thief in the night" more than a few times growing up when my behavior warranted it.
But, what I seem to have missed was this message about worry. (Our Lord also cautions against "carousing and drunkenness," but it’s this last one that has me most concerned today.) Worry seems such a part of my nature. I know I am not alone in this, whether or not you are willing to admit it. Just watch the news sometime-the media thrives on stirring up a frenzy of worry about everything from swine flu to terrorism. It’s almost become a national pastime. But it’s so much broader than that.
Here, Jesus calls out the "anxieties of daily life" as one of the chief culprits that can desensitize and distract us from God. What are you anxious about in your daily life? These days I think it would be easier to list what we aren’t anxious about. There’s our jobs, families, debts, safety, health, education. Need I go on? In know, as of late especially, I have almost convinced myself that preoccupation with all these things is perfectly legitimate. But when our whole focus is on these earthly fears, how can we be spiritually watchful? Simply put, we need to shift our attention back to God.
How do we do that? Well, easier said than done of course. But our Lord does give us some advice: "Be vigilant . . . and pray." In other words, be awake and conscious of God in our lives. He speaks to us all the time, but I bet we are so centered on other things that we often miss it. And perhaps most importantly, He tells us to pray. But I don’t think He is only talking about stealing away somewhere to meditation and prayer. We need to remember that we can be in constant conversation with the Father no matter where we are or what we are doing. And perhaps if we make this a habit, we can stop worrying about worry.
Marlo Serritella is on staff at the Holy Cross Province Development Office in Chicago.