Saturday, October 31, 2015

Watch At All Times, Praying

“But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man" (Luke 21:36). Does this not put a tinge of terror in you? Or is it just me? Often we become presumptuous, presuming that we have “made it,” that we have achieved. Perhaps we think we have achieved because we are baptized. Perhaps we think we have achieved because we think we are good. Perhaps we think we have achieved because we believe in God and in Jesus. Perhaps we think we have achieved because we are Catholics and have graduated from “all the necessary stages.” Perhaps we think we have achieved because we “think” we love Jesus. Jesus reminds us, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” “But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man.”

What does Jesus mean by “watch at all times”? If we must pray that we have the strength to escape all the things that will take place, does that not imply that we do not have the strength? Is it necessary to pray just once—or continuously? If we are to pray that we will be able to stand before Jesus, does that not imply we have not achieved? “Let your loins be girded and you lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.”

From the Catena Aurea – Gospel of Luke, we learn from St. Basil: “Every animal has within itself certain instincts which it has received from God, for the preservation of its own being. Wherefore Christ has also given us this warning, that what comes to them by nature, may be ours by the aid of reason and prudence: that we may flee from sin as the brute creatures shun deadly food, but that we seek after righteousness, as they wholesome herbs. Therefore said He, take heed to yourselves, that is, that you may distinguish the noxious from the wholesome. But since there are two ways of taking heed to ourselves, the one with the bodily eyes, the other by the faculties of the soul, and the bodily eye does not reach to virtue; it remains that we speak of the operations of the soul. Take heed, that is, Look around you on all sides, keeping an ever watchful eye to the guardianship of your soul. He says not, Take heed to your own or to the things around, but to yourselves. For you are mind and spirit, your body is only of sense. Around you are riches, arts, and all the appendages of life, you must not mind these, but your soul, of which you must take especial care.

The same admonition tends both to the healing of the sick, and the perfecting of those that are well,
namely, such as are the guardians of the present, the providers of the future, not judging the actions of others, but strictly searching their own, not suffering the mind to be the slave of their passions but subduing the irrational part of the soul to the rational. But the reason why we should take heed He adds as follows, Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged, etc.” He goes on to add: “But carefulness, or the car of this life, although it seems to have nothing unlawful in it, nevertheless if it conduct not to religion, must be avoided. And the reason why He said this He shows by what comes next, And so that day come upon you unawares.”

St. Bede admonishes: “[If] a physician should bid us beware of the juice of a certain herb lest a sudden death overtake us, we should most earnestly attend to his command; but when our Savior warns us to shun drunkenness and [excess], and the cares of this world, men have no fear of being wounded and destroyed by them; for the faith which they put in the caution of the physician, they disdain to give to the words of God.”

Not only must we watch out for ourselves, but also our brethren. It is through them that we are strengthened. When we find others in union with ourselves, it makes us stronger. “Though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him; a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecc 4:12). This is one beauty of the Catholic Church. In His Church, Jesus teaches us unity. We can prevail as a Body, but not as individuals.
--Tommy Turner

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida: