First Week of Advent – December 3, 2023 – Sister Maureen O'Brien, SNDdeN

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December 3, 2023

Mark 13: 33-37

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Mark 13:13

What is this time which Mark is reminding us about? I’ve always believed that it contained a promise, wrapped up in the love of a mother and child and the story of new life.

But a few days ago, I experienced a sad version of Mark’s reference to this promise in a jarring moment in a very ordinary place, my favorite grocery store in Salem, New Hampshire. I saw a woman, holding the hands of identical twin brothers, frantically weaving in and out of other shoppers near the bakery. The boys were about four years old and she was trying to get them away from a middle–aged man.

I saw her and heard him. He was harassing her using a litany of insults about not knowing how to train the boys. He even suggested that she get a dog, practice using commands with it, and then try using the same commands with the children!

He never said what the boys did or didn’t do in the store. Until the man left the store, she had all she could do not to fall apart while she protected Anthony and Joseph. His parting words to her were that she should be glad that he hadn’t said more about what he thought of Hispanic women as mothers, wives and inept trainers of children!

She told me that she wasn’t Hispanic, but Lebanese, and the boys’ grandmother. She had brought her grandsons to the store for pizza and juice, a special treat. I hugged her. And we tucked the boys into the safe space made by the two of us and two other women. Then passed packets of Kleenex around!

“Be watchful,” Mark reminds us; be aware of one another during moments of promise and pain. Create communities of hope. Protect innocent women and children this Advent. Because it is the time.

Matthew 13: 33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

The Gospel of the Lord.

As a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur for more than 60 years, Sister Maureen O'Brien has served Notre Dame’s mission in the United States, Japan, Italy, the Philippines and shorter periods in Haiti and as a member of an educational team in the Democratic Republic of Congo.