November 27, 2008


1st Sunday of Advent – B

Mark 13: 33 – 37

In the Gospel of Mark, this passage comes immediately before the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. With this placement, the parable of the master’s unexpected return and the warning to the servants to keep watch take on a different meaning than just any generic story or warning. We should read this parable in light of the events surrounding the last days of Jesus and his disciples before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion.

Jesus has warned the disciples to “Be watchful! Be alert!” and to “Watch” because the lord of the house might come in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. The events of the Passion, as recorded by Mark, unfold during those moments. First, the Last Supper takes place in the evening. During the meal, Jesus predicts that Peter would deny him, and the rest will be scattered. Then, in the night, Jesus takes the disciples to Gethsemane. There he prays, while the disciples fall asleep. Still in the night, the high priests and the scribes put Jesus on trial. And the disciples disappear out of fear. Peter follows Jesus at a distance. Yet, in the courtyard, Peter denies Jesus, and the cock crows. Then “as soon as it [is] morning,” Jesus is led to Pilate’s court. All throughout Jesus’ ordeal, the disciples fail to heed his warning.[1]

Consequently, for the disciples of Jesus and the early Church, this parable and Jesus’ warning to watch must have been very real. They learned the lesson from painful experiences. And in faith in Jesus’ promise and mercy, they passed on the lesson to us. Now, we should “be watchful and alert.”

And Jesus, in this short parable teaches us how to be watchful and alert. That is by carrying out the order the lord of the house gives to each of us, according to our responsibilities and our own work.
[1] Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 271.

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