“Keep Alert. Keep Awake”
“Jesus said to his Disciples:
33 ‘Beware, keep alert; for you do not know
when the time will come.
34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work,
and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
35 Therefore, keep awake —for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn,
36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly.
37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’”
The Gospel of Saint Mark
The Gospel of Saint Mark is the shortest and the earliest of the four Gospels, presumably written during the decade preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written taking into account that of Mark, which they used as the basis to narrate their own ‘account’ of the life of Jesus.
The Gospel of John was written much later and from a different perspective. The first three Gospels are called Synoptics, because they describe events from a similar point of view, in contrast with that of John.
Each of the Gospels tries to read the events and the life of Jesus as it was understood and lived by a particular Christian Community. In the case of the Gospel of Mark, the Community was made of Members coming from the Gentile world. There is no special interest in Jewish affairs: we find little by way of Jewish views, arguments or terminology; and the Gospel validates the faith experience of those coming from a Gentile background. Mark’s Gospel is not particularly interested with elaborating the teaching of Jesus, as is case the in Gospel of Matthew which introduces Jesus as the ‘New Moses’.
The central interest of Mark is to show how Jesus, while remaining misunderstood and rejected, was at the same time God’s triumphant Son.
According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus preferred the way of humility and submission; but the Jews, expecting a victorious warrior-Messiah, were not prepared to receive this answer in response to their hopes.
The reason why Jesus asked for silence about his miracles and his identity (the so-called ‘Messianic Mystery’) was to avoid a triumphalist enthusiasm. Rather than call himself Messiah, Jesus used the more modest and even mysterious expression, ‘Son of Man’.
The Gospel of Mark is attributed to John Mark, an associate of Saint Paul and a Disciple of Saint Peter, whose teachings the Gospel reflects.
In our previous sessions, we have been discussing how we can understand the ‘Apocalyptic Literature’, both in the Old and in the New Testaments. Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew corresponds to Chapter 13 in Mark’s Gospel: it is an ‘Eschatological Discourse’, namely, a description of the ‘End of Time’.
While the apocalyptic writings are recognized by their frighteningly dark imagery of trials, tribulations and turmoil in the heavens, there is also the consoling light at the heart of it all, which overcomes the darkness.
Mark borrows this encouraging picture of God’s deliverance from the promises of the Old Testament.
These verses are the conclusion of Chapter 13.
Jesus has made several predictions about his passion and death: persecution, rejection, death and resurrection. He also announced the fall of Jerusalem and predicted the trials his followers would have to endure.
Finally, Jesus made a prediction that will come to pass in the same way as all the others just mentioned above: ‘He will come again in glory to save the living and the dead’.
The moral and conclusion of the verses we contemplate here at the conclusion of the ‘Eschatological Discourse’ in the Gospel of Mark is: ‘Persevere in your faith’: Even in dark days of suffering, it should be clear to Mark’s readers that it is the duty of the disciples to be missionaries of the Gospel who are alert. It is not only a matter of giving quiet witness of one’s faith by living out the Gospel in one’s private life, but of intentionally moving out of the private sphere to make other disciples and to preach the Gospel. The Son of Man entrusted this to the Apostles, and to ourselves today too.
Therefore the ‘Eschatological Discourse’ is not only concerned with the ‘Last Days’. It clearly shows Jesus’ interest in vigilance. Its validity is therefore permanent, and the invitation to vigilance is valid for all peoples in all times.
When is it going to happen?
The Gospel is not talking only about the destruction of the Temple and the fall of Jerusalem, but of the coming of the Son of Man in power and glory, on the ‘Day of Yahweh’ which is known only to God.
The simplicity of Jesus and his humility are in sharp contrast with the arrogance and pride of those who work out days and timetables as to when all these things are going to happen.
We live in the shadow of eternity and there so there is no need for fearful and overwrought expectation. Day in and day out, we should behave as if it were the most important day of our lives. We need to complete the ‘work’ given to us:
It does not matter when the day comes, what matters is to be ready for it;
Whether it is sooner or later, or whether we are younger or older, does not matter; and
The amount of hours, days, months or years we live does not matter.
What really matters is how we live the time given to us.
History is going somewhere, it has a purpose, a goal: the fulfilment and completion of creation. Our personal history has a purpose that surpasses our time on earth. We would be foolish if, immersed in the many material concerns of this world, we forget God.
In the cycle of the year, every end is a new beginning.
As we have reflected over these past weeks about the ‘End of Time’, Advent is about new beginnings.
However, both the end and the beginning require from every Christian the same attitude: ‘Be alert and watchful’.
The birth of Jesus in the flesh matches the second coming of Jesus Christ in the Spirit.
We prepare for the Incarnation of Jesus and his Second Coming in the same way: day by day we humbly commit to welcoming Christ in our life.
The invitation to keep watch prompts us to avoid being overwhelmed by discouragement, lack of hope or disappointment. In this way, we will keep away from the many distractions that lead us to sacrifice personal and family peace for the sake of satisfying our whims and most immediate desires.
“A PRAYER WHILE YOU’RE WAITING ON THE LORD
Father, forgive me for all my doubts, worries and fears,
Forgive me for my impatience as I wait in this place.
Forgive me for questioning the story you have written for me.
I believe, help my unbelief!
Help me to remember that it is good to wait for you.
Grant me the joy that comes from knowing you.
Fill my heart with Gospel joy.
“I believe that I shall see
the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong,
and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!”
The “man” who goes on a journey is the “master of the house”. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus takes on a much humbler appearance. Through this Gospel we can contemplate many concrete details of the human nature of Jesus, of his empathy and of his sufferings. For our part, we are able to identify with Jesus, who is fully human, unassuming and vulnerable.
The “man” who goes on a journey seemed to have gone for good. However, as he leaves, he does not want his property to be lost. Therefore, he gives each servant a “task” to do: Jesus has ascended into heaven and sits at God’s right hand. He has put us in charge of his “property” and has given us a “task” to do.
The “door-keeper” seems to play a special role in this story. Who is the “door-keeper” for Jesus? Is it Peter to whom Jesus entrusted the ‘Keys of the Kingdom’? Am I the “door-keeper” who, by my way of life and by explicitly inviting others, can open the gateway to the treasures of heaven for others?
The “man” who went on a journey is the same glorified “Man” who will come again to find us at work and fully awake!
We wait joyfully and expectantly because one day His return will come true.
We will meet Jesus, He will call us by name, once again, as on that day when a priest called out our name and baptised us in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
 More than 90 percent of the content of Mark’s Gospel appears in Matthew’s and more than 50 percent in the Gospel of Luke.  Acts 12:12: “As soon as he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many had gathered and were praying.” Acts 15:37: “Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark.”  Daniel 7:13-14: “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.”  Amos 5:18-20: “Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” Isa. 2: 2: “In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.” Jer 46: 10: “That day is the day of the Lord God of hosts, a day of retribution, to gain vindication from his foes. The sword shall devour and be sated, and drink its fill of their blood. For the Lord God of hosts holds a sacrifice in the land of the north by the river Euphrates.”