I remember when I went in for an endoscopy. The moment the nurse gave me anesthesia, my mind and body went to sleep. It was such a good sleep, that when I woke up I actually wished I could go on sleeping! But it was just “anesthetic sleep”, devised by medical experts so they can perform an intervention without lots of pain. But in that sleep, I did not have to think about my life, about tomorrow, about anything, not even the test. I was simply asleep, oblivious of my surroundings.
There are all kinds of “anesthesia” in our society, and their goal is to make us forget that we have just one life to live on this earth, and this life goes too fast. As soon as we think we are still young and have plenty of time, we shall wake up one day to realize that there is less time left to make sense of our lives, and set up our priorities. Societal and cultural anesthesia comes in a variety of forms: undue preoccupation with material things and possessions. This cultural and societal anesthesia put us in a state of mind in which we forget that everything in this world passes by, and that we would feel more secure if we built our lives strongly on God. This would make us use material things properly without being possessed by them.
Another potent anesthesia is pleasure-seeking. That is a “sleeping pill” that is readily available even to kids. People spend so much time and money on a variety of pleasure and entertainment, often not accompanied by reflection. Think of drugs, tobacco, alcohol and sexual experiences. Some have already abandoned their lives to one or two of them. These experiences truly achieve their goal: put us to sleep and make us forget that we have just one life to live.
There is another seemingly harmless anesthesia, such as sports entertainment. This is good in itself. But it can take the place of God in our lives. How many times do parents fail to come to church with their children because they were so tired from too much sports entertainment the night before? Often times, parents would come to Church but leave their children to sleep in because they stayed out late having fun the night before. Again, it shows a lack of priority. There are parents who will always let their kids know the importance of God in their lives, so that they will grow old with it. Even if they stray, they will eventually remember and come back.
This weekend, Jesus reminds us to be wise and more discerning, and to remember always that we have just one life to live. We go to Church to tune our lives; to realign our whole life to God who is our ultimate destiny. That is why the psalmist prays the Lord to teach him the shortness of his life so that he can grow wise (Ps. 39.4).
It is so hard to be aware of the power of societal anesthesia, and to know how deeply we are under their spell. That is why we need to awaken our spiritual sensitivity so as to discern what is happening around us. Thus Jesus advices: “learn from the fig tree – when it is tender, we know the summer is over” (Mk. 13:28). Just as the shedding of leaves tells us that summer is over and autumn is around, so we should be able to read the signs in our lives that tell us that we do not have our priorities right, and so make the necessary change. When we feel so scattered, so unfocused, sad without any reason, dissipated, constantly in motion but without any meaningful direction, we need to stop and tell ourselves: “I have just one life to live; what is going on?” God always sheds His light upon us to show us the way. It is my prayer that you identify your peculiar anesthesia and ask the Lord for His gentle touch that awakens you to the deep thirst of your spirit. Be blessed