‘Watch yourselves or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life and that day will spring on you like a trap.’Lk 21:34

Debauchery drunkenness and the cares of life- all placed together in one sentence by Jesus, all presented to us by him as being equally destructive, coarsening our hearts and preventing us from being aware of, and ready for, his coming, his many comings through out each day and consequently unprepared for his final coming.

There we have it—the cares of life are placed right alongside drunkenness and debauchery —and with no escaping it as it comes straight from our Lord’s own lips. Do we really take this seriously enough or have our hearts indeed become coarsened, dulled and insensitive to the delicacy of our loved One’s touch so that we are no longer even conscious of the subtle movements of grace, the voice of the spirit calling us gently to deeper union and greater self giving. It is so easy to become comfortable with my selfishness, to allow my petty self concern pass unnoticed, to be untroubled by the negative movements of my own spirit- nothing as glaringly obvious as drunkenness and debauchery- but perhaps more insidious and dangerous because more easily overlooked or excused.

What are the cares of life? Are they not the thoughts and actions that draw our hearts away from Jesus? What preoccupies me? What thoughts are running round in my head when I stop and become aware of myself? In the past hour where have I been? Where does my mind go when it is not occupied with the task in hand?  Is even the task in hand perhaps a care of life?. Something necessary, yes, and perhaps even noble in its self but how much honesty and integrity do I bring to it? Have I invested more care, more time more energy in it that is needful? And to what end, for what reason- to impress, to make myself acceptable to God, to others, to justify myself, to keep in control. Have I been too concerned about its success because any hint of failure makes me feel vulnerable? And so it goes on….

Then there are the good things….our concern for one another; our anxiety for the sick; our worry over those hurting; our heartache over the Church and the world? Can these also become the cares of life? Are there not times when our anxiety exhausts us, numbing us, preventing us concentrating, preventing us praying. Can we not become fixated on our worries, responding with an intensity and distress to life’s dramas big and small, within and outside ourselves that perhaps stems from a lack of trust in God’s loving care for us and his mercy for our world?

As we journey through this Advent, it can be different. God’s word is alive and active, offering liberation. ‘Our liberation is at hand’. That seems to imply that we do not ourselves set our hearts free- Freedom is given to us. Liberation comes to us and it comes in the moment when we realise our need for it and humbly acknowledge our helplessness.

That is why we are told to watch ourselves. The ancient monastic practise of vigilance makes it possible for our thoughts to tell us where our hearts are, our anxieties to tell us where our trust truly is.

These things that menace us, that bewilder us both within ourselves and outside ourselves can become moments wherein the Son of Man reveals his power and his glory.

Stand erect hold your heads high for the Lord, your liberator, is your integrity.