In today’s Gospel Story (Mk 13:33-37) Jesus talks about a master who is away, and tells the servants to be alert lest his return catch them by surprise. As with Gospel Stories, there are both the “majority report”, what the Story is generally understood to be saying, and the “minority report”, what the Story says to each of us in our every day living.
The “majority report” usually sees this is telling us to prepare for Jesus’ coming back to us as we celebrate Christmas. It also has the sense of pointing to the future, referring to Jesus coming at the end of the world, the Last Judgement. As important and traditional as these are, neither has much impact on how I live my everyday life. And so I look to a minority report.
To do this, read the gospel passage slowly and prayerfully a few times, being careful not to limit its meaning to what it has always been. Do this several times over several days. After each reading, simply think about what it is saying, use the words to make up a simple prayer, or something along these lines. See if there is any connection with whatever is going on in our every day living, ready to be surprised, and be open to anything. We process the Story through the filter(s) of whatever is going in our life when we read or hear them.
What about accidental encounters or chance conversations? Are they God being God for all of us involved? Each of us has to deal with our own understanding of God, including whether they believe in God or not. While my understanding of God is all right for me, I cannot impose it on anyone else. I am called to trust that God knows what is happening, and just be myself and try to stay out of God’s way.
This Gospel Story has a special meaning for our St Mary of the Woods community these days as we deal with Jean’s sudden death. Is the master knocking on our door asking us to be aware not only of our own grief, but the grief of Jean’s family, to be there for his girlfriend Skyler, his daughter Jaime, his brother Naiott? If we believe we are doing our best to live as Jesus’ disciples, can we see our faith calling us to help the residents and staff deal with their grief? Can we believe God is being God in and through us as we help each other deal with our collective pain? Our food services staff is a close knit group of people, and we all benefit from what they do in our kitchen and dining rooms. What comes out of our kitchen is first class. They are our people. Some of them are young compared to the rest of us. How can we support them in this tragedy? Does our age and wisdom offer us a different perspective? Is there something God is calling us to do, to help God be God in all this? Are we willing to let the Spirit guide us? We have a good community here, some would say we are our own family, all of us — residents, staff, tradesmen, visitors. It just might be because in our own way we do care about each other. Every one of us is important and necessary. There is abundant evidence of this.
Are we being called to help others deal with their grief, and maybe let others help us with ours? Can we believe, even experience, God being God here as all of us deal with our pain? Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. As difficult as it might for us, it’s ok for us to weep, to hurt, and admit we hurt, at Jean’s sudden death. Some of us have learned the hard way that refusing to admit that we are hurting carries its own long term suffering. We are not invincible, and that’s ok. We can not ever let ourselves forget the relationships we share with each other. They are part and parcel of our every day living. Our faith teaches us that, in the providence of God, every one who is in our life needs our gifts as we need theirs. We are not alone. Takes a while to learn this.
This Gospel Story is not a warning or a threat to be afraid of. It is an encouragement to be alert to the good happening all around us, and in us, even, or especially, in the dark and frightening times. The master in the Story is not someone we need to be afraid of, but a God who loves each of us as we are, and is creating us for a fulness that everything and every one in our life is helping us move towards. Also, we are filling that same role for everybody we meet as God works through all of us to move each of us towards our fulfillment. As we see from the headlines, local and world wide, many people have no idea of their own goodness, and some hurt so bad that the only way they can deal with their own pain is to inflict pain on others. We can do very little about the world situation, but we can ask the grace to live the Gospel with every one who is in our life in any way. Just sayin . . .