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Luke 21:34-36

Today’s readings reflect a bit on the fate and faith of martyrs as well as the temper of our times. Ordinary time is coming to an end and the grace-filled season of Advent is upon us. The days are growing shorter, darker and colder on the Great Plains. The scripture these past days are eschatological—suggesting the end of time, the four last things, and the final judgment.

St. Luke gets our attention when he exhorts us in the gospel, “To beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…with the anxieties of daily life…” lest you are surprised by the coming of the last day when you are to stand before the Son of Man.

While not certain, it is somewhat safe to say that the final coming is not imminent; but if it were how to respond?

The gospel continues, “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are presently with us.” This is our focus. How do we respond to the issues of the day as they effect how we live our lives—spiritual and temporal?

Look to the tribulations one cannot escape on this December morning; Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Syria, migration of peoples, mortgages, health care, presidential politics, drought; or rent, insurance, kids, safety on the streets, December snow! You know your own situation, your own tribulations.

And the response for all of us is Luke’s advice to “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape these tribulations…”

Great advice! Pray—focus—pray—and more prayer. Read the signs of the times, do not be surprised with what is set before you. We each have our unique set of tribulations. The remedy, recipe, antidote is simply to acknowledge those challenges, isolate them and pray that you have the strength to escape, avoid, or minimize these tribulations. Keep in mind, these tribulations will always be with you; they come with living.

Only prayer, rooted in faith, hope and love, will relax these visions and soothe the anguished spirit.

The grace-filled season of Advent can help us to be vigilant and prayerful amidst the challenges around us.

By John P. Schlegel

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