Our son-in-law, Jeff, was the quintessential Air Force pilot. He taught me that one of the first things a pilot learns is situational awareness, which he simply called SA. I was playing golf with him one day when he saw the group on a parallel fairway just yards from us. I was getting ready to hit my second shot when he called from the cart, “Dad, SA!”
The man on the other fairway had stepped up to address the ball and was taking practice swings. While we were still on our tee box, Jeff had watched him come off their tee box with a pretty terrible slice (meaning the ball arced dramatically down our side of the fairway) into the rough. His next stroke didn’t go far, and this was his third stroke on the ball. He was near the trees, and Jeff realized that a slice could come directly toward the cart.
Knowing what he meant, I looked up and around just in time to see the swing. The other golfer yelled, “Fore!” the very moment the ball soared past us. The ball came directly over where my ball lay and may well have hit me had I not seen what was happening. All because I was reminded to engage SA in that moment.
As Jesus moves toward the cross in Mark’s gospel, he talks about how important situational awareness … necessary watchfulness … mindfulness … is for us.
In Mark 13:32-37, Jesus says,
“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; 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 slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
He uses the image of someone going on a journey and putting the servants in charge who then reminds the doorkeeper to stay awake and watch for the unexpected return. We tend to make this passage entirely about the future. It is the eternal reward for the worthy and eternal judgment for the unworthy. But in seeing it only this way, we miss the more immediate meaning.
What if we see Jesus as calling us to practice mindfulness … to watch what happens in every moment of the day … to be prepared to meet Christ in the face of our neighbors. Those neighbors could be people down the street or across town or south of our border. Most often, Jesus tends to tell us to look for his face … the face of Christ … in the poor, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the hungry … those who are marginalized or who experience brokenness in any way.
Yet we tend to be watching the clouds when Christ shows up unexpectedly at another door … often in places or in people who are unseen and unnoticed.
Take a minute to pause and see what is around you today. Take inventory of the people with whom you have crossed or will cross paths today … even if you are separated by car windows or acres of land or even oceans. Where is it that you might see Christ today?
As my son-in-law advised, when we practice SA it might reveal the errant golf ball, but it might also reveal the sudden appearance of the face of Christ.
Stay mindful, friends!
God, keep us mindful for your unexpected appearance in our lives. Amen.