‘And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!’
The Faithful & Wise Servant
[Matt. 24:45-51; Mark 13:34-37]
Any bookstore with a Christian religious section is bound to have titles dealing with the signs of the second coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It seems to be an endless source of fascination among many to try to interpret current events as evidence of Christ’s return. The desire for signs began with the disciples themselves (Matt. 24:3), and continued in the earliest days of the Church, when it seems that the Lord’s coming would be delayed longer than expected by the apostolic generation.
On the other hand, after more than two millennia since the Resurrection, there may be an opposite temptation, namely, to slacken in our commitment and sense of urgency. Yet we must also be bear in mind these words of the Creed: ‘He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.’
In his sermon on the end times during Passion Week (Matt. 24-25; Mark 13; Luke 21), Jesus does speak of the signs of the end — wars and rumors of war, false messiahs and other delusions, turbulence on earth and in the heavens. Notably however, this is not Jesus’ chief aim. Rather, he issues a blunt statement to put an end to idle speculation.
But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son,[h] but only the Father (Matt. 24:36)
We will know when the time comes, just as we know summer is near ‘as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves (Matt. 24: 32). But it will be sudden, and many will be unprepared.
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matt. 24:38-39)
Rather than foolishly seeking signs, or taking a casual attitude, Jesus tells us that in face of this reality, the approach must be one of spiritual vigilance, or watchfulness. He tells a parable to make this point. Christ is our master, and if we are wise and faithful servants we will go about our daily tasks and our devotion to His ministry, even in his absence, we shall be blessed for our diligence upon his return. The evil servant, on the other hand, who uses the delay to slacken in his duties, will receive an evil portion with the hypocrites. So the Lord concludes:
Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch! (Mk. 13: 35-37)