Be alert and watchful

"There are reasons to be afraid, but there are reasons to be hopeful as well."


As the Catholic Church starts its new Liturgical Cycle and celebrates tomorrow the first Sunday of Advent, the Evangelist Mark introduces as to the Gospel where Jesus exhorts his disciples to be watchful and alert for they know not when the time the master of the house will come. Jesus uses the imagery of the master of the house who goes abroad and places his servants in charge and order the gatekeeper to be on the watch. As already said, Jesus tells them to be vigilant and be always prepared for the return of the master of the house.

The Gospel of Mark is part of Jesus’ discourse on the end times. In previous Sundays, the Evangelist talked about Jesus’ teachings on the destruction of the Temple, the persecution of faithful, the rise of the Anti-Christ and the Second Coming. Hence the concluding message as reflected in the present Gospel of Mark introduces us to the message of being alert and watchful for the coming of Lord.

Although the Gospel narrates an event that happened more than two millennia ago, its message still resonates to the present time. The President, who insists that the scriptures are irrelevant in the present times, is wrong. Cultural conditions in different eras may differ but humans, whatever time they find themselves in, are essentially the same. More importantly, God is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, such that His words do not go out of fashion nor lose its relevance but remains current now and forever.

Essentially, the Scripture teaches us to be always prepared in our earthly existence in relation to the coming of the Lord because death comes like a robber in the night; it comes when we least expect it. Nothing is more certain in this world than one’s passing. Death has been poetically referred to as the great equalizer. One day we may be strong and healthy but tomorrow we may be gone. In a time when we are taught to look and consider only the present, it is of utmost importance to anticipate the future and what is to come. This is what it means by being alert and watchful for the unexpected arrival of the master of the house is a certainty.

But there is no need to be fearful of the master’s coming.  If we remain awake and ready, the coming of the Son of Man is an event to be greeted with joy. Thus, our whole life should be a preparation for the return of the master. This constant watch is not based not on fear but on hope in God’s promise of eternal life.

In this Advent Season, Christ will pass in our lives. It is a time when we will experience a personal encounter with our Redeemer. And specially at this time of the year, we must prepare to welcome him with clean hearts more than we undertake the preparations for the festivities which are temporal concerns. During this season of love and giving, we should not allow Christ to pass by without welcoming him or we will miss a great opportunity.

We welcome Christ with great hope and joyful expectation and not with foreboding and fear. And we can only do this if we are prepared. In our anticipation of the Lord’s coming, we can only pray that our faith will help reveal the Kingdom and prepare others for eternity. We cannot do this through our efforts alone. But, God, acting through us, will reveal and realize the Kingdom. Then, we act according to his will.

During Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience in Vatican, a young Argentinian boy once broke free of his mother’s clutches to play with Pope Francis during a Vatican audience, much to the pontiff’s delight. According to the report, the boy’s mother apologized and explained to the pope that her son was autistic. “This boy cannot speak, he is mute,” Francis told the gathering. “But he knows how to communicate, how to express himself,” the Argentine Pope said.”And more than that: he is free. Free in an unruly way, but free.” The boy tugged on the gloved hand of a Swiss Guard and played behind Francis’s chair.”Give me a kiss,” the pontiff said, as the boy’s mother rushed on stage to try and catch him, before Francis told her to let him be. “We should all ask ourselves, am I as free in the face of God? We should all be as free before God as a child before his father.”

Indeed, one can say that he is prepared for the Lord’s coming if he, like the Argentinian boy, is free—free from sin, free from spiritual baggages but full of love and joyful hope in his heart, always seeking like a child the love of his Father.

How would we then welcome the Lord’s return during this four weeks of Advent? Would he find us in fear or in deep slumber? Or would he find us alert and waiting in joyful anticipation of his passing and eventual return?

There are reasons to be afraid. Human rights lawyers and medical doctors serving the people are being killed. Businessmen are being shot in broad daylight. Schools of the Lumad are being closed, their teachers and students attacked; even those who come to their aid are being harassed with false charges. Violence and misogyny of fraternities. And then there is the mother of all physical threats—Climate change—hovers above our planet, our islands a prime target. I worry when I think of all these things.

But there are reasons for hope as well. Brave judges that stand up for truth and justice. Schools like Siliman University that formed persons for others like Atty. Ben Ramos and Dr. Avelex Amor, both killed for loving and serving the poor. Sports unifying a university with campuses from North to South and a street in Quezon City from one end to another. A country of young people like Sarah Elago in Congress and Myles Albasin who is currently detained in Dumaguete. A country with shepherds like Bishop Ambo David and Benedictine Monk Dom Martin Hizon-Gomez; both glorify God in very different places, one among the poor in Caloocan, the other in the mountains of Bukidnon. I rejoice in acknowledging these gifts.

This Advent, let us all be alert and watchful. Let us sing together the familiar Advent song: “Come, Thou long expected Jesus/Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us, Let us find our rest in Thee/Israel’s strength and consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art/ Dear desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart/ Born Thy people to deliver, Born a child and yet a King/ Born to reign in us forever, Now Thy gracious kingdom bring/By Thine own eternal Spirit, Rule in all our hearts alone/ By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne/ By Thine all sufficient merit, Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

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Topics: Catholic Church , Pope Francis , Liturgical Cycle , Sunday of Advent , Gospel of Mark
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