My family and I were shopping at our local mall today when the fire alarm suddenly went off. While not ear-piercing, it was very loud, and there were strobe lights going off everywhere. Truly, there was no way to miss it. We were done our shopping and heading out of the mall when this occurred. During the five minutes it took us to exit the building, there was no public address announcement to indicate it was a false alarm. While we could not see any smoke or fire, there very well could have been in some other part of the building. As I looked around, I noticed that no one else was moving to the exits. People continued shopping. A few people, especially children, covered their ears in response to the shrill noise, but that was it. Everyone else simply ignored the alarm. Truly, I was flabbergasted by the lack of concern.
As a society, we have become used to false alarms. Car alarms, house alarms – they all get ignored. The media tries to get us worked up about things on a daily basis. There is always a threat du jour, some new thing or food that is bad for us. Most of these are proved false in time. We have learned not to be bothered.
What about in our spiritual life? Do we pay any attention to the alarms that we hear there? Or does our jaded attitude carry over into our relationship with God? As I reflected on this, I thought of John the Baptist crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” If we encountered him today on the street (there aren’t many deserts in my part of the world), we would most likely move to the other side of the road in an attempt to avoid him. Do we take seriously the need to repent?
We’ve heard Scripture passages so many times, we barely listen during Mass. Can you recall what the Gospel was about this past Sunday? What the priest said in his homily? Do we take the message of the Word of God seriously in our lives? Do we hear God asking us to change our lives?
What about when that little voice inside our head tells us what we are doing is wrong? Do we pay attention to our conscience, or do we ignore it? Do we try to rationalize our behavior? Do we think that because everyone else is doing something that it is okay? Do we want to take the easy road rather than the right road? Do we ignore the alarms inside ourselves, shut them out until our conscience is deadened and the warnings go away?
Despite all the false alarms in our lives, there are alarms that we should take seriously. Contrary to the opinion of my fellow mall shoppers, I still believe that it is better to leave a building when the fire alarm goes off. You can always go back inside when it stops. It is even more important to pay attention to the alarms in our spiritual lives. They rarely come with piercing noises and strobe lights. Instead, they come in whispers, the nagging feeling that something isn’t right in our lives. They come in the Word of God and in answers to prayers. Ignore them at the risk of your eternal lives.