First Sunday of Advent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: November 28, 2021
Last week I saw a survey of Catholic priests in the USA. One thing that struck me was that 51% of the priests who did the survey said that they were pessimistic about state of the church in the USA. I would guess that there might be a similar result if such a survey was done with priests in Canada.
I also saw another survey of Protestant ministers also in the USA that indicated that 55% find it easy to be discouraged. Not a good sign when the pastors and leaders in Christianity are discouraged and not very hopeful.
Then we hear the words of Jesus in this Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation,…, and the worries of this life.” Dissipation means to scatter or waste. It is possible for us to waste our life, waste our faith, being overcome by the worries of this life. Allowing ourselves to give in to discouragement and seeing only the problems and difficulties of life. What weighs down your hearts?
God has made promises for our salvation, the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of the promise of God for our salvation, our well-being. God wants to save us, wants our well-being. But, we can begin to give in to bad news, focus on disappointments and failings, become discouraged, worrying about all that is happening in the world, and in the church, and in our life. Very easily we can miss out on the grace of God that is around us.
The Season of Advent is a time of waiting, a time of preparation. We are preparing our hearts and souls to celebrate Christmas joyfully. We are preparing ourselves to be awake to the good news of salvation, to recognize the grace of God coming to us. We need to watch that our hearts are not weighed down, giving in to discouragement, pessimism.
It is for this reason that we hear Jesus warning us, “Be on guard, be alert.”
What can we do to be alert, to be on our guard, to not give in to discouragement, to not waste our life and our faith? How do we watch that our hearts are not weighed down? I will list four things that are spiritually helpful for us.
Prayer. This seems so basic and so simple. Of course we should pray. But, many of us struggle to pray. Many find it difficult. If you are struggling to find time to pray or to know how to pray, then keep it really simple to start. When you get up in the morning, a simple prayer, maybe just a sign of the cross, to begin the day in the presence of God. Before you go to bed at night finish the day with a simple prayer. Maybe three Hail Marys or again just a sign of the cross. In this way you would begin and end your day in the presence of God.
Silence. There are so many distractions in our lives today, it is important to take time for a moment of silence. Begin with just a couple minutes. Close your eyes, turn everything off, and sit in silence in the presence of God. Listen to the calm that comes from Jesus within us.
Watch and read things that are life giving, encouraging. Find something to read that is uplifting, encouraging, positive. Feed our inner life by positive, life-giving sources. Some of you may want to read one of the Gospels during this season of Advent.
Find good friends in the faith to share the journey. It is hard to live a Christian life all by ourselves. It is so helpful to have at least someone who shares the faith and with whom you can share together in this journey.
Jesus tells us to “Be on guard.” Do not let our hearts be weighed down. What is it that weighs down your heart? Be alert to keep your hearts light. I have given four things to help us keep our hearts from being weighed down by the worries of life. Prayer, Silence, watching and reading things that are uplifting, and finding friends to share the journey of faith. Be on your guard, keep your hearts light.