First Sunday of Advent 2022
A few days ago, my iphone gave me a weekly message: “Last week, your total screen time was down 17%.” I thought, good for me! But the message continued: “You averaged 5 hours and 23 minutes of screen time.” Yikes.
Where do we place our attention? The Prophet Isaiah says, “For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” God wants us to be His learners, people who grow through a steady stream of divine instruction. But if you’re like me, you spend way too much time at the feet of the wrong teachers.
Our phones can help fruitfully re-direct our attention. It’s amazing how many great Catholic Bible studies, classes, podcasts, and soul-forming material is accessible there. This coming new year let’s use our phones to be a little “Zion” or “Jerusalem” — a place we go for wisdom and instruction, and not just endless data and entertainment.
New year challenge: Grab your phone. Start consuming some source of Catholic instruction each week to help you become a better student of Jesus. Keep it going into 2023. If our screen time helps us learn true wisdom, it will be a great use of time.
We can embrace and relish each moment of our lives as a sacred sacrament or nonchalantly and robotically attend to what life presents. We have our feet in two worlds. One is holy and sacred, and the other is profane and secular. Which one has the greater claim on us? To what do we devote most of our energy? We can easily be consumed with the particular demands and essentials of daily life: family, work, obligations, and the like, that we don’t really notice anything more than what is right before us. We become masters at “doing” and neglect our need to “savor.” Jesus reminds his friends that “as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.”
While certain things require our daily attention, we cannot become so consumed with them that we fail to see the larger picture of what is coming. For the Christian, Advent is the time to pause, reflect, and savor. It is a time to see life as a sacrament of the moment and not just an investment in secular interests, pleasures, and personal obligations. It is easy to get distracted, lazy, preoccupied, and tired. Apathy can quickly wreak havoc on the most dedicated of souls. Whatever we can do this Advent season to be more attentive, focused, alert, and watchful will serve us well. It will make us eager and well-prepared to meet our Lord when he comes. It is for certain that he will come.
Who made me? What is my purpose? What will happen to me when I die? These are pivotal questions that, in life’s busyness, we hardly find time to ask and answer. They define who we are, and the answers we provide serve as guideposts and anchors in the seas of our lives. Advent is the perfect time to make friends with our souls. It is a time to perk ourselves up, open our eyes, ears, and hearts and seek God’s presence in the simple moments of our lives. God is with us. Ask God to grant you a deeper appreciation for His presence and the gift of attentiveness.