First Sunday of Advent – Mark 13:33-37 From Pax Christi Executive member Paul McGowan.
‘ Be watchful! Be alert!’
Today we get the bare bones of a story about servants left in charge of things, with one of them on the lookout, in case the master turns up. It’s supposed to tell us something about the end of the world, the culmination of everything. It’s Jesus’s closing words about the day of the Son of Man, that preoccupation of his with the prophet Daniel’s vision.
Perhaps for Mark’s readers no elaboration of the story was needed. (‘You know the one about…?’). But two weeks ago we read the story as Matthew told it a generation or two later. Times had changed. The story had changed. Times have changed many times since.
Waiting for Godot is about the best we can do these days. We’re in the middle of nowhere. It’s getting dark. Nothing happens. Soon we have to leave the theatre. But the outside world is not as we would like it to be. So we can neither live in the world as it is nor live in a pretend world until the real one catches up.
Is there an appropriate way for us to read these sayings wholeheartedly about the imminent end of the world, while denying that such an event is, actually, about to happen? We ask, like the apostles: How will we know this is true?
Does the context help? Literally, the proof is that the Lord’s judgemental presence will be discovered to have arrived when we see it in the ordinary – badly-organised weddings (Nov 8), crooked finance (Nov 15), hazy notions about goodness (Nov 22). And we can find ourselves mixed up in things like this ‘at any time of day’, says Mark.
The day of the Son of Man: no great fanfare, just the penny dropping. The redeemer born in a stable.
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