A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
You do not know when He is coming. It could be at evening, at cockcrow, at morning.
“Cockcrow” means the first moment of dawn, when the light scatters in the sky for the very first time. You won’t be able to see the light when that happens, but animals can. It’s when the birds wake up and the rooster crows. For you, it will seem like dark. You won’t know when He’s coming: in the evening when the light is dying, or at cockcrow when it seems to be gone forever, or in morning when you see clearly.
You only know that He is coming back to you.
When you met Him, you were so certain of His presence, your heart was so at peace. You knew for certain that He was real. You were ready to leave everything and follow Him, and you did. So He led you to where you are now. He left you in charge, to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, and He disappeared.
Now you feel that He is gone, and you don’t know when He will come back.
You only know that He will come back.
At least, you hope that He will come back. That idea is beginning to sound so hollow to you, not like when you first believed. But you were told He would come back.
In the meanwhile, you and I are the servants, each left with our own work. You may not feel like this is the Lord’s work, but it is. Waking up, making your bed, doing your job, going to school, these are the Lord’s work. Housework is the Lord’s work. Yard work is the Lord’s work. Shoveling snow is the Lord’s work. Buying groceries is the Lord’s work. Taking a shower is the Lord’s work. All of your work is the Lord’s work, because it’s your work that you have to do. It is the work He left you when He was taken from your sight.
And if you stay alert, while you do this most important work of living your life as a servant of God, then He will come to you.
You have to be alert because He comes in disguise. You have to cultivate alertness. You have to take time regularly, to practice being alert, because alertness is a skill that must be learned and practiced. The way to practice alertness is to pray: your Rosary, your meditation, your Divine Office, your daily Mass, whatever you can mage to do and pay attention while you do it, depending on what your work is. This will feed your alertness in rest of your life.
And then, as you work, alert and awake and keeping faithful watch because you’ve practiced, the Lord will come back to you. And you will recognize Him, because you’ve learned to be alert.
Sometimes the Lord comes in a sound. You’ll hear a bird’s song, and realize that God was singing to you, and take a moment to thank God for it. You’ll hear an ambulance siren a long way away and take a moment to pray for the sick, and realize that God is there in the sick. Sometimes the Lord comes in sight. You’ll see a glorious sunrise and realize that God painted the sky just for you, and you’ll contemplate the sky and thank Him for it. You’ll see a beggar on the curb and pull over and help him, because you recognize that God is in the beggar. Sometimes He will come to you in a line of poetry. Sometimes He will come in the smell of pine or lilacs. Sometimes He will come in your anger, when you’re good and furious about an injustice, and that anger will direct you to do something to right that wrong, and that, too, will be the Lord’s work.
Sometimes He will come in the silence and the dryness when you cannot find Him at all. In that moment you will cry “eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani” and discover the suffering God in your own voice.
You will eventually learn that He has never left you. He couldn’t bear to do that. You are His beloved whom He calls to share His joy forever. But that realization might be a very long time coming.
And, of course, He is coming in a different way. One day, the Glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together.
Until that day, stay alert. Cultivate alertness. Attend to the work that is yours to do.
Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning. Whether when darkness comes, or when it seems that dark will never end, or when it’s daylight.
You only know that He is coming, and He is coming soon.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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