Quite a few years ago, my older sister and I used to chase each other around the house. We especially did this when our parents were out. There was a circular route thru my bedroom, the kitchen, the living and dining room, and the hallway. When our parents left, we often chased each other around this circle. We would mess up the rugs, move some furniture, and generally scatter things. When we saw our parents pulling in the driveway, we had to run around the house and get things in order before they came in. We were very good at this and usually managed to cover up our horseplay.
One time, when my sister was running through my bedroom, I threw a pillow at her. But I hit the glass shade on the ceiling light which began spinning around and around. We watched it spin until the nut which held the shade in place came off. The shade crashed into the bedpost and broke. Then, we realized that we wouldn’t be able to fix this before our parents returned. I can still remember how afraid I was waiting for them to return. I was relieved when my parents just made us pay for the new shade. And I resolved that I wouldn’t throw a pillow at my sister again.
My sister and I didn’t know when our parents would return. But, we did our best when we saw them coming to make sure that the house was in order. We got a two minute warning, if you will, to get the house in order. But, life isn’t a football game; so we cannot rely on a warning that it is about to end. Jesus says that we don’t know the day or the time for his return.
When we broke the shade, the anticipation of punishment was very hard for me to bear. This is familiar to some of us who wait for the coming of the Lord in a state of serious sin. If we aren’t following his commandments, we will dread his coming and the anticipated judgment for our sins. If any of us think that we might be in a state of serious sin today, we should go to confession and unburden our mind and our soul. And after we confess our sins and receive absolution from a priest, we return to a state of grace and are ready for the end time, whenever it may occur.
The focus of the Gospel is the end times, either our end time after our short time on earth when we will each be judged, or the end time when Jesus returns for the final judgment and the elect are taken body and soul into heaven. This is a scary topic for most of us and we deal with this in different ways. Some strive to stay in a state of grace so that they will be prepared when he returns. Some ignore the time of judgment and assume that in his mercy, Jesus wouldn’t condemn anyone, especially them, to hell. Others despair that they aren’t worth saving so they ignore his return. And some try to predict exactly when Jesus will return so that they can prepare just before it happens. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to be watchful and to be alert for we don’t know the time when He will return. So, it would be foolish to either ignore his return or to try to predict it.
The Gospel parable is about a man who leaves home to travel abroad. This traveler is Jesus who was here short time, was crucified, resurrected from the dead, and ascended into heaven with his Father. The home in the parable is the Church, Christ’s house. Its servants are all of us, who he places in charge. This parable reminds us that the present situation, building Christ’s kingdom, his Church on earth, won’t last forever. When the master, Christ returns, he expects all of us to be working hard at whatever task we have been assigned.
This world is not our home; it’s just our temporary residence. That should be evident to all of us as we witness the passing of those close to us. So, while we don’t know when Jesus will return at the end of time, we do know that our time on earth will be a short stay of at most eighty or ninety years. We need to be watchful and vigilant during our short time as the gatekeeper of our souls.
Arturo Nogueira, a twenty one year old rugby player who didn’t believe in God, was a passenger on a plane which crashed in the Andes in 1972. After over one month in cold, cramped quarters with little food, he died from injuries sustained in the crash. Arturo wrote a letter to his parents and his girlfriend just one day before he died. He wrote:
“In situations such as this, even reason cannot understand the infinite and absolute power of God over men. I have never suffered such as I do now- physically and morally- though I have never believed in him so much. Strength. Life is hard but is worth living. Even suffering. Courage.”
Arturo got a warning before his end time and found a new relationship with God. Some of us will get this warning and some will not. Some who do have an opportunity to set things right with God will squander their last opportunity. Today, Jesus urges us to watch and to be alert for we don’t know if he will be coming in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not find any of us asleep.