Faith, Fellowship and Fun

Mark 13:32-37
Mark 13:32 Jesus said to his disciples: “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 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 their own 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 Bind you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
Mark was writing at the time of the Jewish war with the Romans and end-time expectations were really high, in Palestine and elsewhere. He may have gathered the statements of Jesus together for the community at that time, to maintain alertness of spirit and to warn against potential false messiahs and the like.
The writing here is apocalyptic, which requires very careful handling. Apart from that, the threatening tone could grate on our ears today.
In general, apocalyptic is meant neither to be a prophecy nor a description of the future. It interprets the present and tries to promote fidelity and steadfastness.
Mark is facing three situations:
(i) it is probable that the communities for which the Gospel was written had experienced tribulation of
some kind, with the consequent temptation to give up;
(ii) complacency engendered by the apparent delay in Jesus return; (iii) feverish identification of the signs of the end.
For Mark, the tribulations are the birth pangs of the end; his teaching is an invitation to be both steadfast and alert. The great virtues are steadfastness (stickability!) and watchfulness.

It is widely thought that Mark’s gospel was the first to be written and that it was composed in Rome just after Nero’s violent persecution of the Christians in that city. One of the themes in Mark is that Jesus is a crucified Messiah and that being faithful to him will involve suffering for your beliefs. This means that we must always be vigilant and that is the theme of today’s gospel.
The fact is that we live in a changing world and new demands will be made on us as followers of Christ. For Mark’s first readers that meant being persecuted by the most powerful government in the world. For us, at this time of the year, the threat to our faith may be from a more subtle yeast no less destructive enemy of the gospel - rampant consumerism.

SEAN GOAN - Let the Reader Understand, Year B
The first generations of Christians were obsessed with the early return of Jesus. The risen Jesus would not delay in coming. They were so drawn to him that they wanted to be with him as soon as possible. The problem began when they realised that time was passing and the return of the Lord was delayed.
They soon realised that this delay involved a fatal danger. The first fervour would cool down. With the passage of time those small communities could gradually fall into indifference and forget him. They were concerned that when Christ came he would find them asleep.
Watchfulness became a keyword. The Gospels repeat it constantly: ‘watch’, ‘remain alert’, ‘stay awake’. According to Mark, the command of Jesus is not only for his disciples who are listening to him. The warning is for his followers of all times.
Twenty centuries of Christianity have gone by. What has happened to this command of Jesus. How do we Christians go about it today? Are we awake? Is it a vibrant faith that we have or is it dying out through indifference and mediocrity?
Do we not have to rediscover the authentic face of Jesus which attracts, invites challenges and awakens? Do we not feel the need to strengthen our relationship with him? Who more than he can awaken our Christianity from its rigidity, inertia, the weight of the past, the lack of creativity? Who can infect us with joy like his? Who will give us his creative power and vitality, if not Jesus?
JOSE A PAGOLA - Following in the Footsteps of Jesus, Year B

1. It is easy to interpret this passage as a warning about impending death or disaster. Recent wars and tragedies are examples. Yet the coming of the Lord is not just the moment of death, but any moment of grace. Recall unexpected graces - good things that happened when they were not anticipated.
2. Perhaps some of these were moments when you were particularly alert and aware of what was going on in you and around you and this enabled you to be open to the moment of grace. Recall the contrast with moments when that alertness and awareness were not present.
3. The servants were given charge of the household ‘each with their own job’. See yourself as a person given a responsibility within the household of God’s people. What is it like for you to see yourself trusted in this way by God? What has it been like for you when you have been shown trust in this way by another person?
4. Jesus says that what he is saying to his disciples he is saying to all. Have there been times when you have been a messenger of hope to others, encouraging them to wait for a moment of grace. Who have been the ones to encourage you?

General Comments

Although the passage is short, you should divide it up, as each section is different and you must meditate on it separately. The key to understanding verse 33 is to take "the time" as the time of grace, the time when a longed for event finally comes to pass: Jesus is reminding us that if we are not awake we let those moments pass us by.
Verses 34 and 35 are a parable, although the emphasis changes is verse 35 so that even these two verses should be meditated on separately. In verse 34 the vocation of the doorkeeper is the focus, so enter into it. In verse 35 the delay in coming is the main point.
In verse 37 identify with Jesus, consciously making a distinction between "you" and "all".

Prayer Reflection
Lord, we thank you for the people who have waited for us
- parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts;
- the church community; friends.
When everyone else had given up on us and gone to sleep, they were the doorkeepers.
As we hesitantly made our way home, wondering if we would be let in, they were awake and welcomed us back.u send us.
Lord, there are many in our country who have lost hope. Say to all what you have said to us Christians -
that we must not despair but must stay awake.

MICHEL DE VERTEUIL - Lectio Divina on the Sunday Gospels
Jesus sketches an image of a world that will be hostile to his message and to his followers. In this parable Jesus urges total trust in God’s cosmic plan and calls for vigilance: ‘Keep awake’. Mark’s first audience experienced many obstacles as they lived under the fear of persecution, but the greater danger expressed in this text is the danger of sleepwalking through life. The caution here for the early disciples, and for us, is to ‘keep awake’ in our search for deeper insight and wisdom.
While this might not sound like a very cheery text with which to begin the joyful season of Advent, we dare to read this narrative through the lens of hope. Instead of worrying about when the ‘master of the house’ will return, we can focus instead on what we do in our daily lives to aid our own awakening: perhaps we need to slow down in order to wake up, to create quiet spaces for ourselves. Challenges lie ahead, that much is guaranteed, but so do amazing possibilities. For great things can happen when we truly wake up and respond to the reality of the world around us. Let awe and wonder grow and be prepared to the coming of the true Christmas Gift.

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