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An ETA for the end times?

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GOSPEL COMMENTARY Nov. 29, Mk 13:33-37

As we begin the season of Advent and a new liturgical year, our Gospel reading for this week is the traditional exhortation — keep watch. We begin each Advent remembering Christ will come again, yet we do not know specifically when Our Lord will return at the end of all things. Still, Jesus reminds us that we are like servants and door guards who know that the return is imminent. Thus, we ought to be ready at a moment’s notice to receive our master with all preparations and honor.

One could ask: why doesn’t Jesus just tell us the day or the hour? Surely Almighty God can manage an ETA. It would seem easier for us to make adequate preparations if we had a bit more information from God. Or at least so goes the theory.

Yet reality is often more complicated than our best theories. There’s good reason to suspect that more precise information might not work to our advantage. In fact, the Lord deliberately withholds the day and hour for our own good.

Consider, for example: how many times have we been given a deadline or scheduled an appointment, only to watch said deadline go whooshing past unmet, or to arrive to said appointment late, panting and out of breath? Or how often have we procrastinated long enough that our “readiness” is little more than a slapdash, last minute Band-Aid rather than a worthy effort? Even if Jesus told us everything, we might still be lazy, clock out and be found asleep at the switch. Often our request for more information belies a wish to do as we please and give God what remains afterward. If we know neither the day nor the hour, we’re required by circumstance to be diligent and disciplined.

Further still, the job of a gate guard isn’t only to watch for the master’s return, but also to keep a vigilant defense against the bad guys. If we knew that Jesus was returning three years from now, we likely wouldn’t give the attention needed to our guard duty, and might find ourselves robbed, ruined and conquered long before the master arrives. We must keep vigilant and guard against evil forces that seek to usurp Christ’s throne as well.

Yet all that is secondary. There is one primary reason that Christ tells us to keep watch, awake and ready to expect the Lord at any moment. Our salvation is ultimately about a posture of readiness that comes from loving devotion. We ought to wait for the Lord not just out of duty, but ideally because we love him and can’t wait for his return. Our watchfulness, if lived rightly, should have more the spirit of kids waiting up on Christmas to catch Santa or for a parent to return from deployment than someone simply fulfilling a duty. If Santa or a parent can merit that sort of enthusiasm, how much more should the God of our salvation? There ought to be love and hope involved.

Does love and hope still live in our hearts? Advent is a good time to double-check. If the embers of hope and love have burned down, if we’ve become drowsy, it’s a good time to rekindle them. The best way to rekindle this hope and love for Christ is a good confession, followed by a renewed habit of prayer each day. If it has been a while, don’t fret. If you just went last week, don’t fret either. Simply put it on your calendar and return to the living fire of God’s love in the sacrament so that you might be renewed in vigor for the watch, for the day of the Lord is indeed coming soon.

Fr. Miserendino is parochial vicar of St. Bernadette Church in Springfield.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020