Gospel for Sunday, December 03: Mark 13: 33-37
I Advent B
33Be careful, keep watch, for you do not know when it is time. 34He is like a man, who departed after he had left his own house and given power to his servants, to each his own task, and commanded the doorkeeper to keep watch. 35Watch therefore: you do not know when the master of the house will return, whether in the evening or at midnight or at cockcrow or in the morning; 36make sure that, coming suddenly, he does not find you asleep. 37What I say to you, I say to everyone: keep watch!
Mk 13: 33-37
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it). Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
“We enter the time of Advent (adventus, coming) by listening to the last words of Jesus’ eschatological discourse in the gospel according to Mark (cf. Mk. 13:1-37). A discourse that Jesus had begun by addressing the four disciples first called and most involved in his life-Peter, James, John and Andrew (cf. Mk. 13:3-4)-and which he now ends by addressing “everyone” with an urgent exhortation, “Watch!” This imperative appears in our passage as an incessant refrain, alongside the other, “Watch!” (cf. Mk 13:5, 9, 23). All of Jesus’ words, and especially the parable of the man who set out on a long journey, are aimed at the command to watch” (E. Bianchi).
This is the same theme we meditated on, three Sundays ago, on the XXXII Sunday of Year A, reflecting on Matthew’s passage of the wise and foolish virgins (Mt 25:1-13).
But all the Gospels insist on the theme of vigilance. What does it mean to be vigilant? The word has two meanings: the first is to stay awake during the night hours or those normally devoted to sleep; the second is to protect someone, to look after, to watch over someone.
Watching is to stay awake
Says Pope Francis, “From Christ’s words we see that vigilance is linked to attention: be attentive, watch, do not be distracted, that is, stay awake! Vigilance means this: do not allow your heart to become lazy and your spiritual life to soften into mediocrity. Be careful because one can be a “sleeping Christian”-and we know: there are many sleeping Christians, Christians anesthetized by spiritual worldliness-Christians without spiritual impetus, without ardor to pray-pray like parrots-without enthusiasm for mission, without passion for the Gospel. Christians always looking inward, unable to look to the horizon. And this leads to “dozing off”: pulling things along out of inertia, falling into apathy, indifferent to anything but what suits us. And this is a sad life, going on like this — there is no happiness there. We need to be vigilant not to drag our days into habit, not to be weighed down — Jesus says — by the afflictions of life (cf. v. 34). The afflictions of life weigh us down. Today, then, is a good opportunity to ask ourselves: what weighs down my heart? What weighs down my spirit? What makes me sit in the armchair of laziness? It is sad to see Christians “in the armchair”! What are the mediocrities that paralyze me, the vices, what are the vices that crush me to the ground and prevent me from raising my head? What about the burdens on the shoulders of the brethren, am I attentive or indifferent? These questions are good for us, because they help guard the heart from sloth… Sloth is that laziness that causes one to plummet, to slip into sadness, that takes away the zest for life and the will to do. It is a negative spirit, it is a bad spirit that nails the soul in torpor, stealing its joy. You start with that sadness, you slip, you slip, and no joy. The Book of Proverbs says, “Guard your heart, for from it flows life” (Pr 4:23). Guard the heart: that means be vigilant, watchful! Be awake, guard your heart.”
Watching is to marvel at God
Pope Francis says again, “Waiting for Jesus to come must be translated, therefore, into a commitment to vigilance. It is first and foremost to marvel at God’s action, at his surprises, and to give Him primacy.” It is to grasp his presence beside us, his passages at our side, his signs, the many prophets he sends on our path. So many times we complain about God’s silence: we feel him distant, absent. But it is we who, dazed by a thousand things, do not know how to notice his presence. Today’s passage begins with, “Pay attention!”: we must be alert to the many manifestations of God in us and around us.
Watching is waiting for the Beloved
“Watching is a tiring exercise, for in it one must engage the mind and the body, but it is an exercise generated and sustained by a firm hope: there is someone coming, someone who is at the door; someone who, loved, invoked, ardently desired, is about to come. It is no accident that sentinels and lovers above all know how to keep watch” (E. Bianchi).
Our whole life must also be a waiting for the definitive encounter with the Lord that will be fulfilled at our death; a serene, sweet, passionate waiting for his coming, for his Parousia, in which he will welcome us into his Kingdom in which all creation will be transfigured in him. Cardinal Pellegrino wrote: “The Christian who is fully aware of his vocation knows what the ‘impatience of God’ means…, the psalmist’s ‘querere Deum’…, the image of the deer that yearns for the fountain of living water (Sl 42).”
“Yes, we do not know the day or the hour when this word of the Lord, the final word over all creation, will be fulfilled; we do not know when Jesus Christ, risen and living in God as Lord, will come: and this waiting that has lasted now for nearly two thousand years is tiring. In faith, however, we know that “the Lord does not delay in fulfilling his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9) and that in his eyes “a single day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a single day” (2 Pet. 3:8); in faith we are certain that his word cannot lie and cannot fail to be fulfilled. That is why we wait for him, persevering in the prayer that cries, “Maràna tha! Come, Lord’ (1 Cor 16:22; Rev 22:20)” (E. Bianchi).
Watching is attention to brothers and sisters
Watching reminds us of the attitude of the mother who lies awake beside her sick child, or the tenderness of one who is close to a loved one to care for him or her. “Vigilance also means, concretely, being attentive to our neighbor in difficulty, letting ourselves be challenged by his or her needs, without waiting for him or her to ask us for help, but learning to prevent, to anticipate, as God always does with us” (Pope Francis).
Monsignor Tonino Bello stated, “”Starting over from the last”> means letting ourselves be involved in their lives. Taking the dust raised by their steps. Looking at things from their side. Judging events from their perspective angle… It means “putting in our bodies the eye of the poor,” as they say in Latin America… Lord, give us eyes to see the needs and sufferings of our brothers and sisters…! What is a problem, more than the “new poverties,” are the new eyes that we lack. Many poverties are caused by this famine of new eyes that can see.”
We must recognize that the current unsustainable economic “order” is not an inevitable mechanism, but depends on us. The first step of each person will then be to become a critical conscience of the current system: “We must expose the supposed innocence of the Money Empire to help understand that what is happening … is the consequence of a world system structured in injustice. And injustice is Violence: the worst of violence. It is essential to expose, to remove the veil, the fig leaf from this system that is under the dominion of the Evil One…. It is essential to make everyone see the great lie that dominates the world and is at the root of the structural violence that reaps endless victims…. American biblical scholar W. Brueggemann writes…: “The imperial economy is contrived to keep people satiated so that they do not see…. Imperial politics is an opium so that no one notices the real suffering in the heart of God'” (A. Zanotelli).
Therefore, it is essential to “pay attention” (Mt. 13:33), to become aware, rejecting the continuous brainwashing of the majority of the mass media, being able to grasp, also with the help of so many experts, Groups and Associations that deal with this, the perverse mechanisms of economic exploitation: “The time has come for a capillary work of counter-information, of critical and self-critical reflection, of reading reality with new eyes” (A. Zanotelli): this too is vigilance!
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.