Jesus said: “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Jesus warns about three things that weigh down the heart, and anybody who has engaged in these will know how burdened the heart becomes when we engage in such activity. One is dissipation. This is an overindulgence in sensual pleasures, and while sexual excess is the first thing that undoubtedly comes to mind, this can be anything that appeals to the senses. Have you ever over-eaten at a party where the food is good and in abundance? One cannot think of anything after that except perhaps sleeping.
The second thing he warns against is drunkenness. Despite whatever passages from Scripture someone might use to justify drinking, including the famous miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana, Scripture is very clear about the dangers of drunkenness. Paul goes so far as to say of drunkenness: “I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
And the third thing he cautions about are the worries of life that weigh us down. And this covers just about everything that we seek in the world, including basic food, clothing, and shelter. Jesus tells us so many times that it is the pagans who worry about these things, but the believer never should because God will give him whatever he needs. “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
Dissipation, drunkenness, and worry are things that make us easy prey for the enemy. This is why Jesus says, “Be on guard.” Peter also advises us always to remain alert. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Being alert is always being in a state of watchfulness. It’s kind of like being on sentry duty in wartime. You can’t slack off even for a moment.
We have reflected upon this reading (or something similar) at least a dozen times this year, and I found myself getting a little annoyed, but then I realized how important these reminders are because, despite our best intentions, we do tend to slack off. So it is good to be reminded and reminded often. Because even if Jesus doesn’t show up in our lifetime, death certainly will, and then in a blink of an eyelid (I hope), Jesus will be there for the Final Judgment.
So, let us be on guard.