Watching for Jesus

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December 3, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

December 3, 2017
Mark 13: 33-37
Fr. George Smiga

A group of kids was playing in the church parking lot. When they looked up, they saw Jesus walking towards them. Excitedly, they ran into the church office and told the parish secretary. She took a deep breath and rushed into the Music Director’s office, pointing out the window. The Music Director dropped her hymnal, ran down the hall with everyone following her into the pastor’s office. He was proofreading the bulletin. She exclaimed, “Jesus is in the parking lot, and He is heading towards the office. What should we do?” The pastor, seeing everyone in disarray, stood up, grabbed his coat, his stole, and his car keys and shouted, “Everyone! Look busy!”

Looking busy is one way to prepare for Jesus’s arrival. But no one needs to tell us that. For many of us, this is the busiest time of year as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’s birth. There are gifts to buy, cards to write, decorations to put up, dinners to prepare. No one needs to tell us to keep busy. But keeping busy is only one and perhaps not the best way to prepare for Jesus’s coming. This is why today’s gospel offers us an alternative. The gospel does not tell us to keep busy. It tells us to watch, to watch for Jesus’s arrival. It recognizes that if we are too busy, we might not even notice when Jesus shows up.

So we are to watch. But watch for what? What are the circumstances in which Jesus is likely to arrive? The gospel presents us with three possibilities. And it does so by mentioning three times of the day: evening, midnight and cockcrow and morning. These times should be understood in terms of the events of the paschal mystery. Evening is the time that Jesus shared a meal with his disciples on the night before he died and washed their feet. Evening then is a time for service. Midnight and cockcrow is when Peter denied Jesus and all the disciples abandoned him. Midnight and cockcrow then are times that demand forgiveness. Morning is when the women found the empty tomb. So morning is a time of joy and thankfulness for God’s goodness. What the gospel is telling us is that we should watch for opportunities of service, forgiveness, and joy, because it is in such moments that we are most likely to meet Jesus.

Service to others is a part of the holiday season—gift baskets for the poor, meals at the soup kitchen, caroling for those who are homebound. But today’s gospel asks us to think of service in terms closer to home. Is there a child or a grandchild who is struggling academically or socially? Is there a friend that has just lost a loved one or received a negative medical diagnosis? Finding ways to offer love and support to these who are close to us is a true act of service. And in that service, Jesus will come to us.

The holidays focus on those we love. But people who have hurt us are never far from view. A family member who has deeply disappointed us, a co-worker who has offended us, a friend with whom we have disagreed and not spoken to in months hover above our holiday celebrations. This gospel asks us to be like Jesus at midnight and cockcrow—hurt but open to forgiveness. It promises us that any effort we make to reach out in reconciliation will not be wasted. Whether successful or not, it is in such an effort that we will find Christ’s presence.

We cannot forget the morning, the joy of the empty tomb. How important it is to express our joy for those who God has given to us. A gentle hug for our spouse laboring over another batch of Christmas cookies and a whispered, “Thank you.” A nod to our teenage son as he walks through the room on his cell phone and a wink that says, “You’re the best.” A moment with our closest friend over a drink in which we simply say, “My life would be so much less without you.” These expressions of joy deepen our lives, and in that depth, Jesus arrives.

We are all busy. There is no way around it. But today’s gospel asks us to watch amid that busyness for opportunities of service, forgiveness, and joy. To miss such moments would be a great loss. For it would be missing the One for whom all our busyness is about.

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