Just as the season of Amihan ushers in the cool northeastern winds; so, too, the season of Advent brings forth the “breath of fresh air”, which is meant to resuscitate the inner spirit of man, badly battered by the pandemic.
Having gone through 21 grueling months of COVID surges & lockdowns, this season of Advent should provide us some 4 weeks of respite. If one takes advantage of such, it should bring forth a new horizon of hope like a “breath of fresh air”, that would enable us to recover our interior strength, which had been badly beaten by the pandemic. By tradition, this 4-week period serves as a time of preparation for Christmas Day, the commemorative celebration of the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Call for Vigilance
Contrary to the common practice of busying ourselves with Christmas shopping in the malls and shifting our mindsets into a much more relaxed Christmas holiday mood, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, exhorts us to exercise vigilance. He reminds us of the strong reprimand of Jesus, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy . . . Be vigilant at all times and pray” (Lk 21:34, 36).
In the words of Pope Francis, to be vigilant means the following:
- We focus on our final destination, that is, to ultimately be with our Lord and Saviour. Hence, we need to be mindful of our lifestyle, whether it’s in conformity with our ultimate goal – to be with Christ in eternal bliss. Often times, our minds easily stray from the essential matters to the ephemeral attractions of this world. Hence, the need for alertness.
- We need to practice a plan of life, which drills down into one’s particular circumstances the essential elements necessary for living a holistic lifestyle. For example, one can draw up a daily agenda on an hourly basis that lists down the “to do’s” for one’s job as well as customs or norms for spiritual growth i.e. attending Holy Mass, praying the Holy Rosary, etc..
- We guard against distractions i.e. social media, frivolous consumerism, etc., which may obstruct or disrupt achievement of our ultimate goal.
A House Built on Rock
Moreover, it is important to make sure that daily life does not become just a routine, being preoccupied only with mundane matters revolving around the self. On the contrary, we need to foster sensitivity to the needs of those around us, specially the poor and the destitute. Otherwise, apathy and indifference may sink into our hearts, which would eventually shackle our souls bereft of happiness.
As an antidote to such self-centered tendencies, Pope Francis urges us to pray always – “Maranatha: Come, Lord Jesus, come”. This is because perseverance in prayer reawakens the soul from slumber, thereby, redirecting focus on what is most important in life. One of the best ways of enhancing prayer is reading the gospels on a daily basis. Providentially, today’s gospel of Matthew gives us a timely reminder, as follows:
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.”Mt 7:21, 24–27, Pocket Missal
Call for Perseverance
Finally, the season of Advent affords us a much-needed respite, which like a breath of fresh air, would re-invigorate our battered spirits in time to celebrate the nativity of Jesus Christ with much joy and thanksgiving. Hence, it would do us well to heed the maxim of my mentor, St. Josemaria Escriva, on the importance of struggling to persevere in the attainment of our goal.
“Why those variations in your character? When are you going to apply your will to something? Drop that craze for laying cornerstones, and finish at least one of your projects.”St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way, #42