“And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Mark 13:37

Friday, 4 December 2020

Mark 13:33-37

Mark’s Gospel offers a message to the persecuted Christians that their suffering at the hands of the Roman Empire was necessary, but it would result in glory. Jesus’ message is not directed only to Peter, James, John and Andrew – but is explicitly meant for all of us. We must stay awake.

We might remember Gethsemane when Jesus asked the disciples to watch and pray with him, but they fell asleep. Can we watch and pray? Let us use this Advent to pray not from a place of fear and suffering, perhaps because of a mistaken image of God as one who wants to punish us.

In Advent, we prepare to welcome a baby into the world. It’s quite remarkable that the first glimpse of God that God decides to manifest Godself as physically is as a baby. I do not know about you, but whenever people come into contact with a small newborn baby, there is almost a universal reaction of love and joy. As we relate to God, we are aware of just how much greater God is than us and that nothing we can do or say can adequately measure up to God’s greatness. In a way, we are the babies and God is the parent. As a thought experiment, can you imagine God ever getting angry with a baby? Even when a baby makes a mess of things, adults will quite often laugh and respond lovingly to the child who unknowingly makes a mess. This is the image of God we should have, of the loving Father who desires only our good.

When Jesus asks us to stay awake, we can focus on keeping in mind the image of God. Not the stern judge, or the cosmic unconnected disinterested controller, but the loving parent who looks down on us and can only take delight in us. Jesus is addressing this message to everyone. Because we are all beloved children of God. Children might feel that there are favourites, but parents know that love is unconditional.

Let’s pray today that we might experience God’s unconditional love, and let us be alert for it in our lives. God desires to show us how much he loves us.

Almighty God,

Help me love you as you love me. This Advent may I recognize you in the vulnerable infant Christ-child. By your example, help me not clutch to power or control, but rather help me to place myself entirely in your hands. In trusting you, we pray that we might find true hope.

Amen.

 
Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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