It’s no coincidence that the days are shorter during Advent season, which begins this Sunday. This is the darkest time of the year and we have no control over this darkness. As we begin Advent, the short days and long darkness help us to focus more intently on Jesus, the true Light of the World. We have no control over what time the sun sets, but we can control the negative things that we allow into our lives, the things that produce spiritual darkness in our hearts.
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus tells us to “Beware that [our] hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life…” He tells us to be “vigilant at all times.” Why do we need to beware? Why do we need to vigilant? Precisely so that we can guard ourselves against the spiritual darkness that can often creep into our lives.
For example, over the last several years, reality television has become quite the craze. It’s truly remarkable how much these shows have caught on, each one becoming more ludicrous than the one before it. What’s worse is how desensitized we’ve become to these shows and to the effect that they have on us. We simply accept these shows as part of our culture and our minds become accustomed to this “new reality” which isn’t real at all.
Too often we’re unaware of the effects that the negative things in our culture can have on our spiritual lives. Maybe we spend every evening watching reality television or we spend an inordinate amount of time on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Little by little these things consume our time and isolate us. Without even realizing it, we allow spiritual darkness to enter our hearts, a darkness that blocks our hearts from receiving the light of Christ. The darkness enters because we did not remain vigilant as Christ commanded us.
The Advent season is a great time of grace for the Church. Advent presents us with the opportunity to acknowledge any darkness in our lives so that we can renounce it and receive the light of Christ. We have a choice to make when we become aware of the darkness in our lives: we can choose to remain in the darkness or we can choose to open ourselves to receive the light of Christ.
As we begin Advent, take some time to prayerfully consider the ways that you might be allowing spiritual darkness into your life. Are you watching too much television or spending too much time on social media? Are you contributing to gossip at work? Are you still holding onto that grudge? Still unwilling to forgive?
Beware. Be vigilant. Pray. Let the light of Christ into your heart to scatter the darkness.
Father Michael Najim is Spiritual Director of Our Lady of Providence Seminary, Providence, as well as Catholic Chaplain at LaSalle Academy, Providence.