November 28, 2010
“I’m Too Busy!”
A young lady was showing to her friend the two dogs she just bought. “This Doberman is named Rolex and this Rottweiler is Seiko. Cute names, don’t you think?” Her friend responded, “That’s strange! They are brand names of watches. They can’t be used as names for dogs!” “Well, that’s what they are, anyway. They are my watch dogs!”
We begin this Sunday the Season of Advent. Once again, we hear the words of warning from the Lord: Keep watch! “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Keeping watch is not just a matter of having watchdogs in your house. Life is a journey. As in any journey, we need to have focus on the road we are taking and on the destination we are heading. In driving, we are always warned of the dangers of having no focus. Talking over the cell phone or doing other things while driving are the major causes of vehicular accidents. So also, as we travel the road of life, we take care not to get distracted. We have to focus on the road and towards our destination: eternal union with God. Otherwise, we will get lost – for eternity!
In the Gospel, Jesus mentioned about the great Flood during the time of Noah. He noted how, before the Flood, the people “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark.” (Mt. 24:38) They were definitely doing nothing wrong. They were engaged in perfectly normal and necessary human activities in the world. The problem was that they were too busy to take serious attention to the warnings of Noah about the impending disaster. They were too busy to notice the obvious signs.
This present world is in great danger, very much similar to that in Noah’s time, not so much due to threats of terrorism and nuclear devastation, but more due to man’s excessive and obsessive preoccupation in worldly affairs. The Lord warns us of the danger of being too busy. It effectively distracts us from the more essential realities in life. We become totally absorbed in personal and selfish interests and concerns, unmindful of the others. It limits our vision only to this world and we lose sight of heaven and eternity. In other words, being too busy in worldly affairs can make us drowsy and fall asleep, thereby unprepared for the sudden coming of the Lord. Hence, Jesus is telling us to wake up. St. Paul reminds us of our limited time in this world. “The night is advanced; the day is at hand.” The moment has come to wake up and “conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.”
But nowadays, these warnings may most likely fall on deaf ears. Not only are there many people too busy and unaware of its serious dangers, but they also don’t want to be disturbed in whatever they are doing. When invited to come to Church, or to attend a formation seminar or any kind of religious or spiritual activity, the first and most common reason for refusal is: “I’m busy.” For too many people, the eternal destination is of least value and farthest from their minds. They have all the time to watch ballgames and other shows on TV and to do many other things, but they rarely have time for God. So when problems come, even minor ones, we see them thrown into panic, not knowing what to do and where to go, like a lost child running scared in a public park filled with unfamiliar faces.
On a larger context, this sad situation is clearly manifested in the absence of peace in the world. We witness never-ending wars all around us. In the first reading, we hear about the prophet Isaiah’s vision of a beautiful and promising future: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
This is what mankind longs for – the time when there will be true and lasting peace, and the implements of war converted into plows and other food production implements. But it remains just a dream, so far from reality. This is because many people nowadays do not anymore take God seriously. They anxiously try to solve the problem of peace on negotiation tables, through various diplomatic courses of action, peace treaties, and even through the barrel of the gun. But rarely do they give attention to what the Scriptures says, “If God does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor; if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil.” St. Gerard Majella rightly said: “Who except God can give you peace? Has the world ever been able to satisfy the heart?”
Hence, the prophet Isaiah invites us, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.” If we want peace, let us fix our focus on God, first and foremost. We must learn to worship and adore Him and follow His instructions and commandments.
Undoubtedly, Christmas is the busiest season of the year. We are now in the Season of Advent, precisely to prepare for Christmas. But we prepare, not in view of the flurry of activities and busy schedule ahead, but to silence our hearts, calm our bodies and minds and relax our spirits so that we can focus, not on the things that we pass by, no matter how attractive and enticing they are, but on the road before us that leads to true happiness and eternal salvation. Let these words of St. Vincent Ferrer serve as our guiding principle: “Whatever you do, think not of yourself, but of God.” A life totally focused on God is the best way to be watchful and ready for the Lord’s coming.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002