Bishop Glen John Provost
Bishop of Lake Charles
November 29, 2015
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Lake Charles, Louisiana
First Sunday of Advent
“People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Luke 21:26
What a sobering message the Gospel gives us at the beginning of Advent this year! I say it is sober because Advent has become in our secular world just another excuse to celebrate. So we need a serious reminder.
We forget what preparation really means. When we prepare for Christmas, we begin by cleaning our house. We dust off the decorations and take out of storage seasonal items. All that follows requires planning. We make a list for gifts, a budget to avoid overspending, and plans for visits to family and outreach to the less fortunate. If we are hosting Christmas dinner, we have to make a menu, sort out the recipes, and purchase the required groceries. I remember my mother would begin preparing Christmas dinner weeks in advance. All of this planning requires a great deal of effort, and, yes, hard work. Just as there is an exterior preparation, there is also an interior preparation.
Jesus wants our soul to be prepared for His coming. Our hearts cannot be “drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and anxieties of daily life” (Luke 21:34). His coming will be like an “assault [on] everyone who lives on the face of the earth” (Luke 21:35). Those are the words of Jesus and they carry a sobering message. This preparation requires vigilance and prayer. This is how we prepare for the coming of Jesus—vigilance and prayer.
I would suggest one area where we could begin to be vigilant—chastity. Chastity is a virtue that requires of us a custody and discipline of our natural desires, so that they do not become misused, abused, and disordered.
At our last bishops’ meeting in Baltimore, we endorsed a pastoral statement entitled “Create in Me a Clean Heart.” It deals with the scourge of pornography that has reached a crisis level in our society. This instruction can be found through our diocesan website. Hopefully, your pastor will make it available to you also. The statistics presented to the bishops were startling. The average age at which children are introduced to pornography is eleven. It is estimated that by age 18 virtually all boys and two-thirds of all girls have been exposed to pornography. The psychological and medical studies on how pornography affects the human mind and its development and behavior are shocking. Pornography like quicksand sucks the victim deeper and deeper into its muck. There is a heavy price to pay for disregarding interior discipline, propriety, moderation, and purity. Is it any wonder that we see a proliferation of sexual misconduct, acts so heinous that we shudder to mention them?
The bishops wanted to offer hope. We wanted to give sound instruction to those who are mired in pornography and due warning to those who are tempted to use it. There is a way to freedom, and it requires prayer and discipline, the prayer and vigilance about which our Lord speaks in the Gospel today.
And this is not to mention the fact of sin. Why, in the words of Jesus, will people “die of fright,” when they see the coming of the Son of Man? It is because they were not prepared. It is because they lived in sin, and they have gotten caught as the unsuspecting owners of a house are surprised by “a thief in the night.” Sin leads to Hell, and mortal sin definitively cuts us off from God’s grace and life. This is what we must fear more than anything else.
Christmas is not just another holiday. Christmas reminds us of the need for preparation, a serious interior preparation that has consequences for the way we live our lives. There is a road that leads to life and one that leads to death. At the fork in the road, we must make a decision. Advent is that fork. Only with the correct choice can we assume the confident posture spoken of by Jesus in the Gospel. “[S]tand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28).
Bishop Glen John Provost