The Son of Man could come at any moment. This is no time for napping.
A Reflection for the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Find today’s readings here.
Stay awake! For you do not know when the Son of Man will come. (Mt 24:42a, 44)
If you want to spread the Gospel, possibly the least effective way is by sitting on a street corner, warning passers-by that “The end is near.” Is there any quicker way to be dismissed as a lunatic? People today associate “end times” obsessions with deranged cults, or pathological paranoia. It may be jarring, therefore, to note that the Gospels repeatedly warn us to be perpetually watchful, lest we be caught unprepared by the end of days.
We could make the warning more palatable by understanding it in a personal way. Even if the world endures for ten thousand more years, one’s own end of days might truly come at any time. Every day, healthy-seeming people get out of bed, comb their hair and absently stir cream into their coffee, unaware that they will be meeting their maker before the sun sets. That could be you. It could be me. Keep your affairs in order, go to Confession regularly and remind your family daily that you love them. God could call you sooner than you think.
Jesus’ message is not just personal, though. It applies to the world, and to the church. The present dispensation will not last forever. Someday the wild-eyed evangelist on the corner will turn out to be right. It is worth thinking about this, not so that we can lie awake at night trembling in terror, but so that we can stay awake in a different sense. The readings for today help us to understand what this means, giving us glimpses of saints in St. John’s vision singing “a new hymn” before God’s throne, and of the widow in the Gospels giving everything she has back to God. These are “the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” They are perpetually awake to God’s command, because they know that they belong entirely to him.
It can be very difficult to stay awake through the long, uncertain hours of life. The bridegroom never seems to come, until suddenly he does, and like the Apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, we may find ourselves wondering ruefully why we were unable to watch and wait for even an hour. Things just seemed to be taking so long. Our eyelids were so heavy. We thought there was time for a nap.
In ordinary life, those “heavy eyelids” might take the form of a sinful habit that we are still not ready to break. Perhaps we know that we need to be more generous with our time or resources. Personal relationships may need to be repaired, or maybe we have been shirking our religious duties, assuring ourselves that we can renew our sacramental lives when things are a bit less busy. The time for such things is always later, until one day the clock runs out. We do not know when the Son of Man will come.
Follow the Lamb wherever he goes. This is no time for napping.