|Jesus said to his disciples, “Be awake. Be alert. You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work. And he orders the gatekeeper to be on watch. So I tell you, watch. You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you, I say to all: stay awake.” –Mark 13:33-37
Sadly, we’re almost programmed (perhaps by childhood conditioning) to hear the Gospel in a threatening or punitive way, as if Jesus is saying, “You’d better do it right, or I’m going to get you.” With that outlook, we are likely to largely miss the point in this passage. This is the bad fruit of using religion and Scripture to threaten people into love, which is actually a total impossibility. Most people who start with fear stay with fear and never get to the higher motivations.
Let’s try to hear it in a much more exciting and positive way. Jesus is not talking about the second coming of Christ. He’s not talking about your death, either. What he’s talking about here is the forever coming of Christ, the always coming of Christ, the eternal coming of Christ…now…and now…and now. In the above passage Jesus says this clearly: “in the evening, at midnight, at cock crow, [and] in the morning.”
You see, Christ is always coming; God is always present. It’s we who aren’t! We’re always somewhere else, at least I often am. Jesus tells us to be conscious, to be awake, to be alert, to be alive. It’s the key to all spirituality, because that is the one thing we aren’t. Be honest. Most of us live on cruise control. We just go through the motions of our daily routines. We wake up and we repeat what we did the day before, and we’re upset if there are any interruptions.
But, in fact, when God has the best chance of getting at us is in the gaps, in the discontinuities, in the exceptions, in the surprises. This is what it means to be awake: to be constantly willing to say that God could even be coming to me in this! Even in this! Saying “Just this!” has become a new verbal practice of mine. I am learning to say it even amidst the things I don’t want, I don’t expect, and sometimes don’t like—in the evening, at midnight, at cock crow, or in the morning.
Adapted from “To Be Awake Is to Live in the Present,”
Collection of Homilies 2008 (CD, MP3 download)
Gateway to Silence:
What this moment offers is the grace of God.