“Vigilance” by Fr. Balltazar Obico, OFM

“Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.“

It has been said by many cultural anthropologists that one of our cultural traits as Filipinos is the mañana habit; to postpone tasks to be done for some other days with the thought of having ample time to finish them. In most cases people wait for the deadline, either in the payment of taxes, registrations in the Comelec, enrollments; we have students cramming in the last few days before the final exams or rushing their research papers. Basketball players trying to make up in the last two minutes in the ball game. I think we don’t have the monopoly of procrastination; it is fundamentally a human weakness to think that we are in control of the events in our lives, that everything is in our hands.

The gospel begins by once again speaking of the goods we possess and of their prudent use. As addressed to the community of believers, it clearly concerns men’s preparation and vigilance for the return of their Lord. They are constantly admonished to be on guard, to remain ready, wide awake, busy during their master’s absence in order not to be surprised by the arrival of the Son of Man. Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. Similarly, the steward will render accountability of his stewardship. He can get distracted with the presumed delay of the master’s return. He will be shocked to find the master is coming at an unknown hour. All of life is lived in expectation of the Lord’s return, the time of his arrival is unknown, his coming certain.

At first reading we can argue that it seems unfair on the part of the master to be assuring us of his return without giving us the specific timetable. Justice demands that at least we know some approximate time. Our objection loses its force because God does not exist in time. With God, all is eternal. There is no yesterday, today or tomorrow in God. All time is eternal present; every second, every minute is a potential grace encounter with Him if we are faithful stewards. For one who is in love, time does not matter. He does not exist in time. One lives in the eternal present.

1. To live in the eternal present is to be vigilant. If God were to give specific time, we are most likely to squander time and opportunity with the thought that it is still a long way off. If God says it is next month in September, with our tendency to procrastinate, we will say to ourselves we still have plenty of
time. The absence of a timetable is an invitation for us to live in the sacrament of the present moment, not to pine for the lost golden ages of yesteryears or to be anxious for a future that is yet to come.

2. Secondly if God were to give us the exact timetable of His return, then our response to his invitation will be tainted with ulterior motives other than loving him freely in return. It is like a patient who is terminally ill and the doctor has given him three months to live. The patient will give up his old ways of unhealthy lifestyle so that he can still prolong his life. He will be forced to shape up, motivated by fear, not by a free response to the invitation of God. If there is one characteristic that makes us children of God, it is freedom. Grace is freely offered and it must be freely accepted.

3. There is something beautiful in the absence of a timetable, apart from the fact that every moment is a potential encounter with Him. The best way of preparing for the Lord’s return is not by trying “to get in under the wire” by doing some great things just in time; but by being faithful, all the time! Imagine every day is the potential day of His coming. If that is the case, then each day I become a faithful steward; spending quality time in my daily work and quality time as well with my loved ones. If I take each day as the potential last day, then every thing I do is my last performance; I shall be doing my best in the task at hand; there is no waste of time and effort as I focus on the last performance. In the same way, with my relationships; if every time I leave home, I take it as the last time I will see my loved ones, then I will hug them tight, and express my love to them with all the warmth that I can muster.

as published August 11, 2013, Parish Bulletin
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