Wake up drowsy heart

The apocalyptic words of Jesus we hear and pray this Sunday are words He spoke to the disciples. Of course, Catholic Herald readers and other disciples of Jesus are called to pay more attention to the goodness and love of Jesus than to the sins and failings of their fellow readers, their fellow disciples. If that is true then we won't hear Jesus' teaching as it is addressed to other people but as it hits home for us, in our own individual circumstances. Jesus is bothered by your carousing? Your drunkenness? He thinks you're not coping well with the anxieties in your daily life?

Knowing, as we do, that disciples are sinful people who choose to follow Jesus, reminds us that we follow Him out of love and out of our need for Him. We should pray for each other. As disciples, we are involved in the great quest for holiness and salvation. Certainly there are disciples who carouse. There are others who drink too much. We know this simply by noting that Jesus spoke specifically about these things. We might want to believe otherwise. We especially might want to believe otherwise if we know that we are drunken carousers.

Jesus certainly came to reach every sinner and help each one overcome every sin. He still is ready and able to do so. To carouse and to become drunk are still real sins in need of repentance, grace and healing. Jesus meant that. These sins never could be the reality of life that Jesus calls a person to live. They may be real but they also provide the illusion of an escape from the reality of a person's life.

What fears, even unacknowledged fears, might cause a person to drink excessively or to "party" a lot? How could such behavior be considered God's will? Clearly such states are not the place to be in when the Lord returns in His glory to judge the world. The free choice to carouse or to drink excessively is a free choice to refuse the Savior. He constantly offers to help us live freely and to live with lively hearts. (The frustration of addiction is a classic reminder of the tremendous need disciples have.) If He asks us to remain ready for His return, He can help anyone in any situation to do so.

If we can claim that we have no issues with the "escape" sins Jesus mentions, it is still noteworthy that there is another way for us to have drowsy hearts: "Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catches you by surprise like a trap." It takes little imagination to understand how drunkenness and carousing might make one drowsy in the heart. How might the anxieties of daily life do so? The desire to escape the burdens and anxieties of daily life can lead to sin and addiction. Jesus seems to be teaching us that the choice not to escape, to stay and face the cares of life, can also be a way of not being properly vigilant nor ready to receive His return.

How is this true? Obviously we should face the challenges of our lives. Facing them as if we can overcome them on our own, a ruggedly individual approach, is a road that will weaken and strain the strongest heart. Instead, we should learn to share our trials with Jesus. The person who stands alone to face his burdens is the person who will grow weary. If the weary one manages to keep up the lonely struggle he will risk growing bitter and resentful. The pattern of worry and weight will make him tired. Is such a person likely to be alert and vigilant? Although his heart has not sought to escape, the independent "brave" man will - like the "escape artist" - not live according to the freedom Jesus offers. If we think we must escape, the only place to go is to Jesus. Our drowsy hearts will wake up when we let them run to His.

Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Louis Church in Alexandria.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015