Sybil 2004

Gospel text

Mark 13: 33-37

33 Keep your eyes open, stay awake. Because you do not know anything about when the new Adam will come. 34 It is like a man who, gone abroad and having left his estate, having given the necessary authority to his servants, to each his task, enjoined the gatekeeper to remain on alert. 35 So be on alert. Because you do not know when the master of the estate will come back, whether it's late at night, in the middle of the night, when the cock is heard or very early in the morning, and then it could be a surprise coming would find sleeping. 37 So I tell you, and here I include everyone: "Be on alert."


We can see the new being coming, for he is in us

Gospel commentary - Homily

A word for a time haunted by fear

My daughter was recently telling me about this event. She was at a bus stop. A father, with a baby in the carriage, was talking to his little boy, standing near him. The language evoked a country of Eastern Europe. While several buses arrive, the father asks his son to question one of the drivers. As he walks towards the bus, it moves away. The child immediately returns, but oh drama, the father is no longer there. In the turmoil, he had entered one of the other buses. Seeing no more his father, the child panicked and starts to cry and shout. Having seen everything that was happening, my daughter goes to the child, takes him by the arm and gets on the bus where the father was. Apart from my daughter, no one among the twenty people huddled near the bus stop had realized anything. Why did only my daughter have her eyes open and be on alert?

That's what it's all about in this day's Gospel: open your eyes, be on alert. But have your eyes open on what? In the imagination of many Christians, it is a question of being ready for the end of the world, for the return of Christ, to be found in a "state of grace", ie on good terms with God, and so inherit his kingdom. This view is very unfortunate and, in my opinion, distracts us from what the Gospel tells us and is very important. First, we risk dying all before such an event, but most importantly, how can we apply this word to those who have gone before us and, in particular, to Jesus himself; for all of them the end of the world never came.

You will grant me that Jesus himself lived this vigilance of which the Gospel narrative speaks. How did his open and alert spirit manifested itself? In my opinion, if he could welcome the preaching of John the Baptist and accept to be baptized, and thereby discover a new vocation, it was because he was ready to accept this call of life where God speaks; he was not asleep. How could he have welcomed all these people on his way, if he had not been on alert to listen and hear?

In my milieu, there are people who do not see anything, who do not realize anything, while others are like radar screens, able to read the drama in the heart of a person before he or she opens the mouth. There are people with whom we discuss at length to help them walk and make the best choice, but remain "asleep", while there are others who are just barely hinted at and make an incredible leap forward. The challenge here is not trivial, but lies at the heart of the Gospel. Because the "moment" for which one must be vigilant and on alert is the coming of the "Son of Man", which I prefer to translate by "the New Adam", the new man, personified of course first by Jesus, but also by each one of us. This coming has already begun, unless we are asleep.

I asked myself: what is the biggest obstacle to vigilance and alertness? The more I ask myself this question, the more the same answer comes back: faith. Yes, faith. Not faith in the sense that many Christians understand it, ie faith in the existence of God and in life after death, as opposed to atheists. But the faith that allows me to say: I am loved unconditionally, this day with its events and its people is a word for me, my life will succeed and is only a long preparation for the meeting with the source of all love. Without this faith, the unknown scares me, the others become a threat, and then my own anguish prevents me from listening to those who speak to me, from being open to the events of life and I am unable to to be on alert.

The Gospel uses the image of a master who went abroad. It is our situation where we can no longer touch Jesus with our hands, but where we are entrusted with the responsibility of his land. His return is to the extent that we become a little more each day the new man, the new woman. Every day gives us the opportunity, as we learn how to "see" and "be on alert". All of this requires immeasurable trust in life. "Be it late at night, in the middle of the night, when the rooster crows, or before the break of day," says the Gospel story. In other words, it's the work of a lifetime. This is what this beginning of the Advent season is about, as we look at the way ahead.


-André Gilbert, Gatineau, August 2005