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First Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27, 2011 (1AdvB)
By Father Cusick
"What I say to you, I say to all: Be on guard!"
The world from God's perspective must appear a veritable beehive of activity as man goes about his perennial task of seeking "the good." Once man has what he wants to possess, he guards it and cares for it. What is the one thing above all others for which you and I make daily sacrifices and in pursuit of which we spend great time and effort? Are we "on guard"? For what? Why?
The young man and woman, deviantly pursuing sexual pleasure outside of marital commitment, "guard" their Godless lifestyle by putting their newborn child in a plastic bag and throwing it into a garbage can. Women and men, married as well as not, seeking the fantasy of sex without consequences "guard" themselves against what they believe to be the "disease" of pregnancy. They turn to abortifacient contraception, and to abortion in ever-increasing numbers when contraception fails.
Doctors too selfish to truly care for the well-being of their patients "guard" their free-time and profits by prescribing abortifacient contraceptives and dangerous implants and shots, rather than taking the time to learn and teach God's beautiful, natural, healthy, and effective means of spacing and delaying births through natural family planning. Today pleasure is "guarded", at the expense of health and life of the body, at the expense of the child conceived, by the marital act sullied in a brief shameful encounter devoid of love or marital commitment. The "cult of the body" leaves no effort undone in pursuit of physique, "guarding" the passing splendor of the body while neglecting the higher good of mind and spirit and the moral life.
Organizations worldwide seek to "guard" the environment or endangered species from the effects of man's work and life, obsessed by ecological concerns in a bizarre denial of the human holocausts in our midst. This while the most beautiful and perfect "ecology" in all of creation, that of the mind, body, soul and spirit of the human person, is attacked in the womb, in old age, if unfit, handicapped or voiceless.
Misguided parents seek to "guard" economic security at the expense of their children. The security and happiness of childhood is marred as babies are shifted daily from one caretaker to another, denied the love and presence of their parents, whom no person and no amount of money or financial security can replace.
Blind nationalists or revolutionaries seek to "guard" their national identity through a genocidal bloodbath in East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, and other places through "ethnic cleansing", dirtying their own hands through murderous wars which cry out to heaven. These and other conflicts have raised up a near-countless host of Catholic and Christian martyrs in this bloody "suffering century", as it is described by Pope John Paul II.
The Catechism discusses the petition of the Our Father, "and lead us not into temptation," in reference to the gospel according to St. Mark, chapter thirteen, verses thirty-three to thirty-seven. The one who is truly on guard is the one who struggles against temptation through union with God in prayer. To "be on guard" means to turn away from sin, to cast all one's sins behind one's back. Sin begins with our consenting to temptation (CCC 2846). Only by prayer and spiritual watchfulness are we ready for the "appointed time" of the judgment, the coming of the Lord in glory to invite forever into the kingdom those who have sought Him and His love above all things.
"Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake!" When, roused to attention by Christ's unmistakable words of warning, we discover what is that thing we "guard" most, will we find it something lasting? Or are we "asleep", lulled into spiritual blindness by our love of comfort, our fear of human respect, our lust for money, our romance with a false "security." The true vision given by Christian faith infuses us with the truth to see that the only security is in God, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. In prayer, the prayer of the Our Father and the perfect prayer of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, we embrace Christ. Pray for the blessing of strength in battle, for the grace of watching in love while others sleep, pray for victory over temptation. Effective prayer is a generous expression of love, rather than a hurried obligation, or a perfunctory rattle of words.
Such a battle and such a victory become possible only in prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony. (Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44) In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance in communion with his own. Vigilance is 'custody of the heart,' and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: 'Keep them in your name.'(Jn 17:11; Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37) The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch. (1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2) Finally this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. 'Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.'(Rev 16:15)
The greatest tragedy of all, beyond the power of words or weeping to express, is the murder of the soul and of the conscience. They invite everlasting exile from God who, though they may pursue and gain the whole world, "guarding" it as a treasure, reject eternal life and lose their souls in the process.