On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded Christians that an essential ingredient for living an alert and joyful life is prayer.
“Be awake, guard your heart,” the pope said in his message before the Angelus Nov. 28. “And let’s add an essential ingredient: the secret to being watchful is prayer.”
“In fact, Jesus says: ‘Keep awake at all times praying’ (Luke 21:36). It is prayer that keeps the lamp of the heart burning. Especially when we feel that enthusiasm is cooling, prayer rekindles it, because it brings us back to God, to the center of things,” he added.
The pope also emphasized that “prayer awakens the soul from sleep and focuses it on what matters, on the end of existence.”
“Even on the busiest days, let’s not neglect prayer,” he urged, recommending an easy prayer to say during Advent: “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
“Let’s repeat this prayer throughout the day, and the soul will remain alert,” he said.
From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis delivered his weekly Angelus reflection on the day’s Gospel according to St. Luke, in which Jesus warns his disciples about the end of the world and his second coming.
“The Gospel of today’s liturgy, the first Sunday of Advent, that is, the first Sunday of preparation for Christmas, speaks to us of the coming of the Lord at the end of time,” the pope explained.
“Jesus announces desolating events and tribulations, but precisely at this point he invites us not to be afraid,” Francis continued. “Why? Because will everything be okay? No, but because he will come. Jesus will come back, Jesus will come, he promised it. He says thus: ‘Rise up and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is near.’”
The pope warned people not to become “sleepy Christians,” who let their hearts become lazy and “their spiritual life soften into mediocrity.”
“We need to be vigilant so as not to drag the days into routine, so as not to be burdened – says Jesus – by the troubles of life,” he stated.
Pope Francis said the beginning of Advent is a good time to ask ourselves what is weighing down our hearts and burdening our spirits: “What are the mediocrities that paralyze me, the vices, what are the vices that crush me to the ground and prevent me from raising my head?”
We should also ask ourselves if we are attentive or indifferent to the burdens of our brothers and sisters, he added. “These questions are good for us, because they help guard the heart from acedia.
Acedia, also called sloth, “is a great enemy of the spiritual life,” he said. “Acedia is that laziness that falls, slips into sadness, which takes away the enjoyment of life and the desire to act.”
According to Francis, this negative spirit “nails the soul down in numbness, robbing its joy.”
He said “precisely in the moments when everything seems over, the Lord comes to save us; await him with joy even in the heart of tribulations, in the crises of life and in the dramas of history. Wait for the Lord.”
“Let us pray to Our Lady: may she, who awaited the Lord with a vigilant heart, accompany us on the journey of Advent,” he stated.