Today we are reminded again of the end times, and called to remain vigilant, watching for the Lord’s return. In this Gospel, Jesus addresses those who wanted to know exactly how and when this would occur. But He tells us that this is not for us to know, and that we should rather make sure that we are ready to meet Him when He comes.
We are probably all familiar with those who speculate and prophecy about the end times, despite Christ’s explicit command not to do so. Whether out of anxiety or curiosity, the desire to know more is deeply rooted in us. While a search for knowledge is often positive, there are some things that it is not helpful for us to speculate about. Moreover, engaging in such speculation can often be linked to a sort of pride – to wanting to know more than is appropriate for us to know. Sometimes the quest for knowledge can be a distraction from the real work that we are given, namely, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. As we are told in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers,
When … Abba Anthony thought about the depth of the judgments of God, he asked, ‘Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do wicked men proper and why are the just in need?’ He heard a voice answering him, ‘Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to the judgment of God, and it is not to your advantage to know anything about them.’
What matters is not that we satisfy our idle curiosity, but that we prepare our hearts, so that we can truly know Him when He comes.
Whereas this time is uncertain and always in prospect, we may advance day by day as if summoned, reaching forward to the things before us and forgetting the things behind. For who, if they knew the day of the end, would not disregard the interval? But if ignorant, would they not be more ready day by day? It was on this account that the Saviour said: ‘Watch: For you do not know when the time will come.’
Saint Athanasius the Great
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark 13:31-37: 14:1-2:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Watch therefore — for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning — lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” It was now two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth, and kill him; for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult of the people.”