Though sometimes equated with ‘the end of the world,’ it is important to realize that biblical eschatology is not about the end of the space-time world, not about the disappearance or vanishing of the earth, but about the transformation of this world.
– Marcus Borg (Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary) p. 252
The readings for the First Sunday of Advent (Mark 13:33-37) can be found here.
The scripture scholar will tell you that chapter 13 of Mark’s Gospel is known as the “little apocalypse” because the topic is about the end of the world as we know it.
Back when the Gospel was written there were many changes occurring in Mark’s community. Chief among the catalysts of the changes was the Jewish revolt and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It is safe to say that there was much uncertainty back then. The proper way to look at chapter 13 is to say that the topic is really about the end of the world as Mark’s community knew it.
Our Gospel reading for this Sunday is just the tail end of the “little apocalypse.” We skipped all the predictions of suffering, great tribulation, and the triumph of the Son of Man and we went straight to the warning to be watchful. These verses are a short parable where the doorkeeper represents Mark’s community and the master of the house represents God’s will in the presence of Jesus. We are to be watchful and vigilant for the will of God in order to transform our world.
There will be a lot of talk about watching for the second coming or watching for the Christ Child, but the fact of the matter is when Jesus says “Watch!” He means take action. All of the teachings of Jesus are meant to spur us to action, and this exhortation is no different.
God made you without you. He doesn’t justify you without you
– Saint Augustine
God, without us, will not; as we, without God, cannot.
– Desmond Tutu
To help us understand this short Gospel parable let me explain the doorkeeper a little better.
The doorkeeper is not sitting beside the door waiting for something to happen. That would be reactive and no different than if the doorkeeper were asleep and woke up when the master approached. We were warned no to be caught sleeping.
The vigilant doorkeeper is proactively listening for a sound and watching for a sign of the master in order to take action.
As disciples of Jesus we are to be like the vigilant doorkeeper and be conscious of God in our daily lives and with the people we meet.
Question: When the Spirit of Jesus speaks to us are we ready to act, or are we asleep?
Jesus is asking us to transform our world into the kingdom. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” We can’t meet God’s expectations if we are not paying attention to God right here and now.
If you take one thing from the homily it should be that we are God’s representatives on Earth and by vigilantly watching and taking action to the will of God we can transform our world.
By placing this Gospel reading at the first Sunday of Advent, a time of preparation, we are expected to understand the best way for us to make ready for the season is to take action.
Maybe our actions will include volunteering to help the poor and less fortunate. That is always needed every day of the year, but now that we have listened to the Gospel message perhaps we now hear the master and see the need for action.
I pray that you are a vigilant doorkeeeper. God bless,