Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’’
REFLECTION, By Fr Aldo, sx
It is not so difficult to identify the central theme of today’s gospel. It is enough to pay attention to the word that is being repeated several times: ”Watch!” This exhortation is so important to Jesus that he deems necessary to reinforce it with a parable. And as we listen to the story, we surely ask ourselves some questions such as:
- What does he mean by “watch?
- Why the insistence that the Lord’s return will be at night?
- Why the Lord does not come during the day?
- Why does he come suddenly?
- What is the meaning of the gatekeeper?
- Who is the Lord?
- Where did he go?
- What are the servants in charge of?
- If the gatekeeper has to watch, why does he say also to all: “Watch!”?
I cannot answer all this questions now, but I would like to reflect upon this insistence that the Lord will come at “night.” The rabbis of Jesus time used to teach that God interfered in human history during four great nights: The first happened during the creation when there were no sun and moon, yet God entered into action ordering what had been a chaos and brought everything into being. The second great night was when God established his covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. “Count the stars of the sky…”. The third, the mother of all nights, was that of Israel’s liberation from Egypt. And the forth is a night still in the future, that is when God will directly interfere again and inaugurate his definite kingdom.
The Christians in the beginning of the Church chose the night to celebrate their major and more important feasts. The celebration of baptism always took place at night and up this day the Christmas Missa de Gallo is celebrated at midnight. Why at night? Is it because there is a more intense emotion due to the dark environment? Certainly there must be something more meaningful than this!
During the night everything is silent, everything is calm and there is a sense of mystery. Moving around secretly at night are the thieves, those who practice evil and want to hide their actions. Thus, real life begins in the morning with the arrival of the light; that is why some organize vigils, that literally means, to stay awake waiting for the light.
In the Gospel of today, the night is the symbol of the entire time of our life. In this sense, a good Christian should never sleep. To sleep means to go astray absorbed by mundane activities. The Christian watches and remains vigilant because a person of faith waits for a “new world,” for the “fourth night.” When eyes become heavy and hard to keep open due to tiredness and drowsiness one ought to remember the words of St. Paul: ”The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” [Rom 13:12]. But the night can also symbolize the moments of darkness that befall on us as we go on in life. Surely we all experience moments of light. It happens when we are young, enjoy good health, feel strong, are good looking, pleasant, have a well remunerated profession, are well accepted by others and live surrounded by friends. Married couples also experience light when there is harmony in the family, they can easily dialogue and understand each other; the day-to-day life is made of plenty of joyful moments and they are happy.
When everything is bright we know also the right direction. But inevitably the shadows of sunset fall upon us all; no one can escape it. There comes the night of disappointments, unfortunate turn of events, sickness, pain, rejection, old age and loneliness. During this time we seriously run the risk of losing the sense of direction and purpose in life; we might not know to whom to go when no one is left to stand by us. When such darkness is taking over and overpowering us, that is precisely the time when we have to watch, be confident and trust that the Lord comes to enlighten the darkness of our life.
The Gospel challenges us in at least three different ways:
- We ourselves must remain awake;
- We must help and encourage others to remain awake;
- We must be attentive to the signs around us that indicate that the light is coming.
Let this Advent Season be a time in which we embrace all heartedly these challenges.