Pastoral Message – August 7, 2022
“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.”
Jesus encourages us to be vigilant, yet, in our busy lives, endless distractions interfere with our journey of faith. When we pay attention to distractions, we move away from God and fill that space with even more distractions. If we think of our journey of faith as a drive in a car, we can immediately see the danger of being distracted. After all, who wants to be in a car with a distracted driver? There is a great risk that a distracted driver will never reach his destination. It’s no different in our faith journey. Spiritual distractions lead us far away from God, our ultimate destination. The good news is that distractions can also humble us and force us to ask God for the help we so desperately need to keep Him at the center of our lives.
Sometimes our distractions are internal. They involve being self-focused and easily getting lost in our problems and ourselves to a point where we lose sight of God. When we focus too much on ourselves, we have no time or energy to focus on God. Obviously, God wants us to care for ourselves but he designed us for more. In particular, He also wants us to love Him and to care for one another. Other distractions are external. Of the many external distractions, three can be very powerful: media, work and relationships.
Media is probably one of the biggest distractions for anyone right now. Each day we are bombarded with social media, streaming entertainment, gaming, other web-based entertainment, movies, music, games, magazines, platforms, newspapers, etc. Media is so distracting because at every turn, we come face to face with it whether at home, at work, in the streets, on our phones, etc. To overcome the media distraction, we need to be wise and purposeful in what we read, watch, listen to and how much time we are doing that. We need to exercise self-control and not over indulge in the things we decide to engage in.
Work can also be a very powerful distraction. While being a good employee or having a successful career are excellent accomplishments, we sometimes become so engaged in work that it can take our focus away from Jesus. The key is to try to avoid being caught up on our duties and forgetting God. We should learn and train ourselves to listen to God and must remember that we work entirely for His glory – not our own.
Finally, our relationships can be yet another major distraction in our faith journey. Any kind of relationship – whether with parents, friends, children, siblings, spouses, bosses, neighbors, boy or girl friends – can become more important to us than our relationship with God. When we allow this to happen, we are distracted. While it is true that relationships are very important, our relationship with God is even more important and it should always be our top priority. If we are in right relationship with God, we will be more attentive in all of our other relationships.
Of course, in and of themselves, not one of these distractions is “bad.” They only become problems when we allow them to divert our attention from God. The scary part is that sometimes we may not even realize that some of the things we engage in are distractions. Therefore, it is essential that we put aside time for prayer each day – especially prayer that is focused not only on God, but also on others. If we focus prayer time on others, we can avoid being our own spiritual distraction. If we reflect on the many distractions we face and call them out by name, we will be more likely to defeat them. Even a few minutes in undistracted, focused prayer will go a long way toward helping us to manage the rest of our days with greater control over our temptation to be distracted.
Resisting the temptation of distractions can strengthen our self-control. It’s helpful to remember that we strengthen self-control the way that we strengthen muscle: through resistance. Muscles grow stronger when we use them to push against resistance. So does self-control. Mastering self-control involves the hard work of applying ourselves, failing, and then trying another approach until we succeed. The more that we prayerfully and faithfully apply ourselves, the more that our capacity for self-control will increase.
Every distracted minute is an unrecoverable minute. We need to make the best use of our time. Whether internal or external, distractions prevent us from spending time on other, more valuable, efforts. The most important of these efforts is our relationship with God. Jesus warns us in the Gospel that those of us who know of God’s will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with His will, shall face harsher consequences than those who act in a way contrary to God’s will because they are ignorant of God’s will. As practicing Catholics, we cannot plead ignorance of God’s will. Therefore, it is time that we start resisting distractions and focus firmly on God. We cannot let noise – whether from within ourselves or from the world – keep us from hearing the voice of the Lord and responding to it.