As we enter Advent to begin another Church year, the first reading from the prophet Isaiah is begging God to ‘tear the heavens open and come down.’ God’s people had gone astray. They felt that God had ‘hidden his face’ from them. They were lost. This could be a description of 2020 for us because, we expected it to be a year of perfect vision but circumstances suddenly changed and we found it difficult to recognise our familiar world.
In the Gospel of Mark which we hear on this Sunday, Jesus continues to insist that we ‘stay awake,’ attentive to ‘our task,’ unlike the drowsy bridesmaids and lazy one talent man which we have heard about in recent weeks. Today, Jesus tells a very concise story about a man going on a journey and leaving his servants in charge. He trusts them to be doing their work but expects the gatekeeper to be awake to welcome the master on his return, no matter the time. There is an emphasis in the story that the coming could be unexpected but the servant must not be asleep.
Jesus is inviting us to have the alert attitude of the servant which is marked by attentiveness, recognition and open waiting.
This is the true-life stance of the human before God. Having experienced the world of instant everything we are not so good at waiting, but in 2020 we have been forced to do just that and perhaps we can embrace it as one of the gifts of the year. We are waiting for a safe vaccine. We wait to embrace children and grandchildren, to see if business will pick up for Christmas, to decide if we need to change our work venues. We have had to wait and perhaps our question at this time could be, ‘what are we learning while we wait?’
As we finish the liturgical year, we are directed to think about waiting for the final coming of Jesus in glory and we look forward to celebrating anew the extraordinary mystery of God taking flesh and living among us. But remember, God comes to us many times each day often unexpectedly, in the beauty around us, the kindness of a neighbour, the thoughtful gesture, the loving sacrifice. Are we recognising his not so hidden face? Stay awake!