HOW TO COPE WITH THE GREATEST FEAR OF ALL
Take care lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and with the cares of daily life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the earth. Therefore be alert at all times, praying so that you might have the strength to escape all that is about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:34-36
Being afraid is part of being alive. Those whose lives are falling apart are frightened, but so are those whose lives are going well, because they know how fragile it all is. They know that the world goes this way and that, and while we should try to maintain a healthy optimism based on the love of God, fear is always lurking.
Of all the things people fear, what they dread the most is the Day Jesus talks about in our Gospel lesson, the Day of wrath -- the Day of Judgment. The Day that will take many people by surprise and spring on them like a trap, when the thoughts and intents of every heart will be revealed, and adjudicated with exacting justice. Men have always dealt with this fear in one of two ways, by intoxication or prayer.
Our first instinct is to find solace in what Jesus calls: dissipation, drunkenness and the pleasures of life.
Alcohol is a good thing. It is a gift from God which may be used in moderation and received with thanksgiving, but alcohol can also be abused. If it is, then we fall asleep not only physically, but also spiritually, and then we forget the things of God. Fathers forget their children. We forget to welcome strangers as Christ welcomed us. We forget how to pray with one voice, but worst of all we forget that Jesus is the only one who can bless His people with peace.
Other times drunkenness leads us into temptation. Intoxicants can ignite sudden rage and unbridled lusts that destroy lives, but alcohol isn't the only diversion we take to extremes. There are work-aholics, rage-aholics, porn-aholics. We can become addicted to government handouts, cell phones and to a vast assortment of other things.
Jesus warns us against such things because they lull us into a spiritual sleep, but there is a better way to cope. The Lord says to us today, "Be alert at all times praying so that you might have the strength to escape all that is about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man."
How do we do this? The prayer Jesus teaches here is the orderly prayer that we learn in the church. It is prayer that we have repeated so many times that we now have "spiritual muscle memory" so that there is no delay when our backs are to the wall. It is calm and rational even in the face of danger, because we have learned in the liturgy that Jesus redeemed the world by His blood, that God is now our gracious Father, and that He so directs all things, good and bad alike, that they must finally work out to our advantage.
That is the Day we live for and look for like no other! The Day when Christ who is our Life will appear and then our enemies will be no more! Scripture calls it "the Day of the Lord" or "the Lord's Day," but what does that term mean? The Lord's Day is the day when "the Lord intervenes in the affairs of men."
At various times and in diverse manners God spoke in times past to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son who He appointed to be heir of all things! (Heb.1:1) It happened in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, (Jn 1:14) when voices of angels filled our hellish world with heavenly song, when our great God and Savior Jesus Christ demonstrated how much He loves us, how far He was willing to lower Himself in order to "raise the sons of earth!" What wondrous love! What overwhelming grace! What tender mercy became ours when the divine Lord assumed human flesh, when in solidarity with those He loves, He assumed the misery of the human condition, crude and unjust death, in order to free us from our sins, so that we might become partakers of the divine nature forever. (2 Pet. 1:4)
Every Sunday is the "day of the Lord's intervention." This is not at your kitchen table or your favorite weekend get away, but only in the church. It is only here that Jesus promises to be present with His grace to diagnose our sins by the Law, to lead us to repentance, and to make us well by His Gospel. This is the place where He grants us absolution, gives us new knowledge, heightened understanding, a greater courage and, in every way, leaves us better off than we were before. The weekly "Lord's Day" is not a stand alone affair, but rather a foretaste of the things to come, an hors d'oeuvre, a down payment. It portends of a future day whose date no man knows, but may it come quickly! May it come quickly because it will be the best day of all. On it we will see our Lord face to face, then nothing else will matter -- nothing! Then the promise of the 84th Psalm will come to pass: The sparrow has found her home, the swallow her nest.
Till then, hear the Word of the Lord. Be careful lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness. Be sober at all times, praying the church's liturgy and celebrating the holy Eucharist so that you might have the strength to escape all that is about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man with your head held high. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras