He’s coming – be on the lookout
By Hilary Juan Bengochea
Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.
Reading this gospel, I reflect on my wife, Sandee’s, recent ‘lockout’ in London and St Vincent because of the closed borders attending the pandemic. The nature of the process, to be granted an exemption to return home, is such that you do not know when the time will come.
It was like my wife travelling abroad and placing me in charge of the home. Jesus’ words were so apt “Watch, you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning”.
In this gospel passage, part of St Mark’s presentation of Jesus’ eschatological discourse, Jesus is preparing His disciples for such a waiting on His return. They are not to be deceived, there will be times of distress, false Christs, and false prophets and false messages. But they are to hold firm with the belief that He will return.
At first, all went well; I ensured her garden was watered and her hummingbird feeders replenished. However, as time went by, the hummingbird feeders became dry, then removed for cleaning and left in a corner in the kitchen; the plants stopped flowering because of a lack of fertilisers.
And as if this were not bad enough, a vertical column of kitchen cupboards collapsed under the attack of termites and the bedroom air-condition unit refused to start back one evening. I made valiant attempts to keep the home clean, but dust is relentless, and eventually covered everything with a thin veneer.
I think of the early Christian communities that grew tired and weary with the persecutions waiting on the return of the Lord. They had to be reassured and comforted by St Peter and St Paul and the apostolic fathers.
So it was with me, my children and their spouses, my prayer group associates, my parish priest, my spiritual director and my formator—all called me regularly, supporting me with encouraging, kind words, words of comfort and perseverance and often generous meals.
As we start this Advent season, in the midst of the coronavirus, Jesus is also warning us not to grow weary, not to despair, to be on the lookout, His Kingdom is coming. We do not know when, it could be midnight or cockcrow. Let us gird ourselves and be on the watch. But watching is not passive. It is not sitting and watching the sky.
I had to get the cupboards repaired, find money to purchase the materials, and get a proper carpenter. Despite valiant attempts by the air-condition repair technician, I received the bad news that the unit was beyond repair. It had to be replaced.
The flowerpots needed cleaning and replanting. The hummingbirds would have to await her return. As Simone, my daughter in London, comforted me, “Let them get about their business and do some pollinating”.
Advent in our traditional culture, as well, is not passive waiting. It is painting the steps with red paint, sprucing up the yard, repainting the walls, putting the fruits for black cake to soak, preparing the sorrel, practising the parang, going to confession and practising some prayer and fasting, as we await the coming of the Lord.
Lord we thank You for the Advents in our lives, when we had to watch and be busy and prepare for the coming, in the midst of distress.
Forgive us for those times when we despaired, while enduring the persecutions in waiting, when we lost hope.
This year as we watch and wait in the midst of loss of jobs, furloughing, salary cuts, relatives locked out from visiting for Christmas, closure of hard built businesses, sickness and the loss of loved ones, give us the grace of courage to watch and wait busily in joyful hope.
Hilary Bengochea is a married father of four, a grandfather of three, and a parishioner of St Joseph RC Church, St Joseph. He is a candidate in the permanent diaconate programme.