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Fr. Cantalamessa on Advent's Wake-up Call

Papal Household Preacher Comments on Liturgical Readings

ROME, NOV. 28, 2005 (Zenit) - In his commentary on today's liturgical readings, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, talks about how Advent helps us to kick bad habits.

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Mark 13:33-37

Life Is a Dream!

Jesus' way of speaking implies a very precise view of the world: the present time is like a long night; the life we lead is like a dream; the frenetic activity we engage in is, in fact, a dream. A Spanish writer of the 17th century, Calderón de la Barca, wrote a famous play on the subject: "Life Is a Dream."

In sleep, our life reflects above all brevity. Sleep occurs outside of time. In sleep things do not last as in reality. Situations that would take days and weeks, in sleep happen in a few minutes. It is an image of our life: Reaching old age, one looks back and has the impression that life has been no more than an instant.

Another characteristic of sleep is irreality or vanity. One can dream one is at a banquet and eats and drinks to the point of satiety; one awakes and is again hungry. A poor man, one night, dreams he has become rich: He exults in his sleep, he shows off, he even disdains his own father, pretending he does not recognize him, but he awakens and realizes he is just as poor as he was before! This also happens when one comes out of the dream of this life. One has been rich down here, but then dies and finds himself exactly in the situation of the poor man who awoke after dreaming he was rich. What remains of all his riches if he has not used them well? Empty hands.

There is a characteristic of sleep that does not apply in life, the absence of responsibility. One might have killed or robbed in dreams; one awakes and there is no guilt; one's certificate of criminal antecedents is without a stain. Not so in life; we know it well. What one does in life leaves its trace, and what a trace! It is written in fact that God "will render to every man according to his works" (Romans 2:6).

On the physical plane there are substances that "induce" and aid to sleep; they are called sleeping pills and are well known by a generation such as our own, sick with insomnia. Also on the moral plane there is a terrible sleeping pill. It is called habit.

A habit is like a vampire. The vampire -- at least according to what is believed -- attacks people who are asleep and, while it sucks their blood, at the same time it injects a soporific substance which makes sleep even lovelier, so that the unfortunate individual sinks into ever more profound sleep and the vampire can suck all the blood it needs. The habit of vice also lulls the conscience, so that one no longer feels remorse; one believes one is very well and does not realize that one is dying spiritually.

The only salvation, when this "vampire" has attached itself to an individual, is that something unexpected happen to awaken one from one's dream. This is what the Word of God that we hear so often during Advent is determined to do, cry out so that we wake up!

We conclude with a word of Jesus that opens our hearts to confidence and hope: "Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes; truly, I say to you, he will gird himself and have them sit at table , and he will come and serve them" (Luke 12:37).

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