Advent begins today, which may not be well noted in any news program or news publication. If you turn on your TV, or read the news on an electronic device or on paper, you are likely to see things that instill fear. You might read about immigrants trying to gain entry to various countries, including the U.S., and you might not like this – it could bring on fear at a time when we seek protection. Maybe a headline about some financial business incites a firestorm of fluttering in your tummy as you wonder if you will have “enough.” Worry can take a more practical form, especially in regard to tummies and enough, if you cannot feed your family. All of these concerns and more are understandable at some level. Yet, what about the level of Christ?
Our world seems to run on the fuel of fear and this is problematic for any of us who follow Jesus. As has already been said, simply watching or reading news can fill our tanks with enough anxiety-provoking material to keep us running for days. Now add to that work and family concerns, fretfulness over jobs and money, disquiet about health, and along with apprehension over other things and we become nervous wrecks. Constant worry is exhausting, and that exhaustion typically leads to more angst. Body, mind, and spirit are lead deeper into fear, which takes us further away from God.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers a clear warning that might be easy for anxious people to miss. Do we think we’re off the hook because we are not out “carousing” or getting drunk? It is easy to point fingers at others for that “sin” and to breathe a sigh of relief that we are neither carousers or lazy bums who are not doing what we should for God. Hold up – not so fast. If we are really paying attention, it would seem that the “anxieties of daily life” are on the watch list from Jesus as well, and that is a net likely to catch many of us. What’s a worry wort to do?
If allowed ourselves, it could be easy to take Jesus’ words literally, almost as though they were a threat. If we do that, we might incite even more fear and less faith in ourselves – and others! When He uses words such as “trap” and “assault” fear and trepidation might wash over us as a result. Can we reimagine Jesus’ words as an invitation to something greater instead?
Setting a goal of being anxiety-free is unrealistic, so let’s get that out of the way right now. Turning to God with our concerns and handing them over to God is at the heart of this Gospel. Jesus is with us to share the burden, making the load lighter. Advent is a time when we are invited into waiting, into the silence of expectation, and into the faith and hope of the child that we already know is born to us. Today is the start of waiting for our Emmanuel, our “God-with-us” to enter the world. Such things invite us into a place of hope, if we accept the invitation.
Can we allow Jesus to free of us of our addiction to worry? Letting go would reduce our burden and relieve us of the self-focus of needless fear, transforming our worry into the vigilance required for life in Christ. The promise has already been made, and has already been kept. Jesus’ invites us into the anticipation of light coming into the darkness. How will we RSVP? In fear or in faith?
(This reflection is adapted from a reflection by parishioner Fran Rossi Szpylczyn originally published in Give Us This Day, ©Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN. We invite you to read and pray with us this Advent season. If you would like to submit a reflection, please email Fran at stedwardsblog at gmail dot com. Thank you.)