[Lectio] 1st Sunday of Advent (B)

1st Sunday of Advent (Is 63:16b–17,19b,64:2–7; Mark 13:33–37) – December 3, 2017

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”


The words of Jesus in the Gospel can be summed up in the imperatives expressed in the beginning of the text, in the middle, and in the end: “Be watchful! Be alert!… Watch… Watch!”

As was his wont, Jesus draws from a situation that was not uncommon—a man who travels and comes back, and the gatekeeper and the servants who take care of the affairs of the house while the master is away.

From the situation given by Jesus we get the clue about the way they reckoned nighttime in the ancient world, how they divided the period from sunset to sunrise into three watches and where a sentinel is assigned duty for each of these divisions.  This period of about twelve hours is divided into three parts of four hours each.  Jesus mentions various parts of the watches of the night: evening, midnight, cockcrow, morning.

The whole point of the discourse of Jesus was about the uncertainty of the moment when the master would come: “You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming.”  It was the duty of the watchman to keep awake and he should not be found sleeping.  This uncertainty is true for the disciples: “You do not know when the time will come.”  And thus, Jesus gives them the command to be alert and to watch.


We are sentinels.  We have been given that command to watch.  What is that time which will come but whose moment of coming we do not know?  Is this the coming of the Lord of the house?

The context of the Gospel text forms part of the eschatological discourse in Mark: Jesus speaking of end times—the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, the persecution that believers would be facing, the desecration of what is holy, the coming of false messiahs and false prophets.  In the midst of all these tribulations, the Son of man would come.  It is this coming that the evangelist was speaking about.

We continue awaiting this coming of the Son of man.  This may be the time when our stewardship comes to a stop when we reach the end of our lives. In the meantime, God has put us in charge, made us stewards of what is properly his—human life, creation, the produce of the earth, our whole person, our talents.  Our vigilance can be expressed in the way we care for these gifts.

  1. What are the things the Lord has entrusted to me?  Do I take care of these?
  2. We continue waiting for the coming of the Son of Man.  Since I do not know “when the time will come,” how do I prepare myself for this?


Pray that the Lord may make you more vigilant: to be more conscientious of your duties and the tasks that he has entrusted to you.  Ask from him the grace that at the end of your life, he may find you awake, enthusiastic to meet him.

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