Watchful Waiting

Matthew 24:42-51

There is a strategy deployed in the medical field by doctors with their patients where a condition exists within the patient that is serious, but the harmful consequences of that condition are not imminent. It is called “watchful waiting”.  The condition might be something like a problematic cardiovascular condition or a cancer. The situation may not require risky surgery but the condition needs to be intently observed.

 

In today’s Gospel reading, we hear Jesus say, "Stay awake!"  Be awake and alert. Our demise might not be imminent, but we need to live our lives in “watchful waiting” mode, knowing that our condition is such that we can’t afford to live as if our earthly lives will continue forever. Watchful waiting has to be our mode of everyday operation, our lifestyle, if we are to be the Lord's good and faithful people.

What will Jesus find us doing when he comes for us?  We know this doesn’t necessarily mean that his second coming will be in our lifetimes. But most certainly, he will come for each of us at the moment we die. Maybe it’s unpleasant to think about, but this Gospel challenges us to reflect on our lives and consider what might we be doing for the kingdom of God at the time of our death.

 

As Jesus says in today's Gospel reading, we don't know when that will happen. Could you imagine what it might be like if a person were to have a brain aneurysm and die while engaging in some sinful behavior, or have a massive heart attack while swearing angrily at a motorist who cuts him off on the highway?  Within mere moments, these people could be standing before Jesus.

  

And we can’t count on our death happening while we are doing something saintly. I think of Roberto Clemente who, if you recall, was on a mission of mercy delivering emergency supplies to poor people in Nicaragua when he died.  We can’t count on dying in bed peacefully while a priest gives us the Sacrament of Anointing to send us on our way to heaven free from sin.

 

Jesus tells us: "Stay awake! Don't get sleepy and close your eyes to the needs around you! Pay attention! Look at what you could be doing!"

St. Paul points out in today's first reading that God endows us abundantly with every gift and talent that we need, every bit of knowledge that we need, and all the strength and endurance that we need to remain blameless until Christ comes for us.

 

How do we remain blameless? By choosing every day to live the reality of who we really are: As followers of Christ we are no longer sinners but are saints learning to be holier today than yesterday, and in this reality we continue the mission of Christ right up to the end of our earthly journey, even in our very last moments!

 

The far-sighted servant that Jesus mentions is one who wastes no time in worthless activities that have no eternal value. We are faithful servants if we bless the kingdom of God through everything we do.

We can bless the kingdom of God in any aspect of our lives, while we’re among the holiest of people, and while we are with people with whom it’s not really all that cool to be holy.  Everything we do can have eternal value if we pay attention to the Holy Spirit's guidance and do everything for the glory of God.

 

There’s a quote that was attributed to Christian reformer Martin Luther that says: “The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays, not because she sings Christian hymns as she sweeps, but because God loves clean floors! The Christian shoemaker does his duty, not by putting little crosses on his shoes, but by making good shoes because God is interested in good craftsmanship.

 

Washing dishes can have eternal value. Taking a friend out to dinner certainly has eternal value. We work for God when we smile at a stranger or give a compliment. We can serve his kingdom in the way we drive and in the way we send an encouraging email. Every task we do glorifies God if we do it well and honestly. How we spend our money can honor God. Each word we speak should bless and not curse.

 

We don't have to be constantly active in ministry to be God's faithful servant. But we do have to stay awake and alert to what we're doing, how we're doing it, and for whom we're doing it – doing the ordinary things in life extraordinarily for Christ. Ultimately, everything we do should bless the kingdom of God.

 

So we thank God today because he has enriched us in every way. And we ask him to help us be more purposeful with our remaining time on earth, in watchful waiting.  Help us Lord, with each passing day, to grow in holiness so that we can one day be counted among those faithful and prudent servants whose lives have made them worthy of the kingdom of heaven. Amen!

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