Counting and Accounting

    When you were a child, did you play the game, Hide and Seek? If you did, you will remember that the person who was "it" closed his eyes while the rest went to hide. To give them time to hide, the child started counting: 5, 10, 15, 20 and up to 100. Then he would say, "Ready or not, here I come!" The point of the game was to hide oneself so well that the leader could not find you, for if he found you, and beat you back to the goal, you had to be "it" the next go-around. The secret of the game was preparing oneself against being found and caught. With excitement we heard the words, "Ready or not - here I come!"

    In today's Gospel lesson Jesus is saying to us, "Ready or not - here I come." In chapter 13 of Mark, Jesus tells us that he will be returning to the earth "with great power and glory." Though this is not a game, there is counting going on right now. In addition, there is also accounting going on. It is a countdown before the blast of his appearance on earth again. It is accounting this time to judge the world and to gather his faithful to himself. Our life on earth is to be one of productive service, uninfluenced by a supervisor's presence or seeming absence.

    "Be constantly on the watch! Stay awake! You do not know when the appointed time will come" are the key words that one should keep in mind always. If an expected event does not happen as quickly as expected, people stop doing the things they ought to do. Hence, Jesus uses a parable about the gate-keeper in the house of a traveling master. Since the master was traveling, his servant must be constantly alert at all times. There was always a fear that the master would come home "suddenly and catch you asleep." In such situations, one must constantly, "be on guard!" So there is both counting and accounting. One must be constantly on guard and be ready to give an account to the Master.

    There is no reason for Christ's followers to be fearful, provided we are ready every day for Jesus' return.  If we are awake and ready, the coming of the Son of Man is an event to be greeted with joy. Thus, our whole life should be a preparation to meet the Master. We base this constant watch not on fear but on hope in God's promise of eternal life.

    In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl tells his story of how he survived the atrocities of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Frankl says one of the worst sufferings at Auschwitz was waiting: waiting for the war to end; waiting for an uncertain date of release, and waiting for death to end the agony. This waiting caused some prisoners to lose sight of future goals, to let go of their grip on present realities and give up the struggle. This same waiting made others like Frankl accept it as a challenge, as a test to their inner strength and a chance to discover deeper dimensions of freedom.  

    I pray that this Advent season increases our inner strength to wait for the Lord and be able to account to him.

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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