If the Lord came today, would you be well prepared? Are you watching for his coming? What do Catholics believe about the end time? How should we react when we hear Jesus say: “Be watchful . . . . You do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33).
Are you watching for his coming? Or do you never think about it? Do you watch for the Lord with as much energy as you watch while hunting for a trophy deer? ….. or for bargains in the store? Think of the time & energy spent watching your favorite football team? Or for the latest news on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat? Are we using as much energy to watch for the Lord?
“Watch . . . You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping” (Mark 13:36).
In Mark’s Gospel, this is the last thing Jesus says before the Passion. This is chapter 13, and in chapter 14 Jesus catches the disciples sleeping in the garden of Gethsemane even though he had urged the disciples three times to “be watchful.” The last time he says, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). So one aspect of being watchful is to pray for strength against the evil one.
We begin every Advent with the challenge to watch for the Lord. The opposite of being watchful is to sleep. Sleeping is a metaphor for sloth. Sometimes sloth is described as spiritual laziness. The word for sloth is ‘acedia,’ literally “not caring,” which leads one to give up on the meaning of life. It can also mean to give up hope when things get tough, or to lose trust that God is with you in the trials of life.
We are entering the darkest time of the year. Some people naturally struggle with depression. In addition, spiritual struggles are common in the dark of winter. There are so many reasons to give in to sloth.
- The boredom of the daily grind ….. at work and school
- Sickness that has worn you down.
- A family relationship that has gone sour and you are tempted to give up on forgiveness or a peaceful resolution.
- Or maybe it is a recent death of a family member.
Being watchful and hopeful are advent virtues. How do we stay watchful and hopeful? How can we be a light in the darkness?
First of all, to be watchful means Keep your focus on God. Be steady in your prayer. In the letter to the Colossians, Paul writes: “Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). In the 1st Corinthians, he says, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:13-14).
To be watchful includes daily acts of love. It is a call to imitate both the prayer and charity of Christ. It means to stand ready to give an accounting to him on his return.
As Catholics, we approach the End Times with the focus of being faithful disciples each day. We do not know when he will come again, and we never propose a date. In a verse that precedes today’s gospel, Jesus said,“As for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father” (Luke 13:32).
As we begin Advent, ask yourself: Am I living each day with my focus on God? Or am I too caught up in the busyness of everyday life? Have I allowed those around me who ignore God to deaden my watchfulness? 23% of U.S. adults self-identify as “nones,” or people who identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular.” It is easy to be affected by those who are not active in a faith journey.
Here are a few ways to be watchful and hopeful this Advent. First: Decide anew that Jesus really is the Son of God, the King of the universe who will judge all nations. Then read the daily readings with this faith in your heart.
Today’s first reading says, “You, O Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.” The word redeemer in Hebrew is go’el, or the nearest male relative who is obligated to rescue his family member who is destitute. He pays the debts of a relative who has fallen into poverty. He ransoms (or redeems) one who has been sold into slavery.
Jesus is not only the Lord of the universe, who transcends our world, but also he is with us in our struggles. He is our kinsman or redeemer who rescues us from sin, evil and death. Read the daily readings with faith in Jesus as Lord of the universe, and as Redeemer who rescues you.
Second: Work your relationship with God each day. Make a new commitment to pray each day. If you don’t go to daily Mass, then try to go once a week. Take a quiet walk three times a week … to center again on God.
Third, be other centered. Keep your focus on the needs of others. Watch for people who are isolated or needy. Visit the elderly stuck in nursing homes or in their own homes.
“Watch . . . You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”