The Need to be Watchful
Watch ye therefore because you know not what hour your Lord will come. –Matthew 24:42.
1. Our Lord warns us to be watchful, placing before us our uncertainty as to when we shall die. He says to us, “The day is not certain. Of two that are working one shall be taken and the other left and no man can be certain which of the two shall be his lot. Therefore you should be careful and watchful. Watch ye therefore.”
Then, too, as St. Jerome says, Our Lord left the moment of life’s ending uncertain to help us ever to be watchful. For there are three ways in which man may sin; his senses are idle, or he ceases to move, or he sleeps. Hence, Watch ye, that your senses may be lifted up in contemplation. I sleep, says Holy Scripture, but my heart watcheth (Canticle of Canticles 5:2). Likewise, Watch ye, lest you sleep in death. Whoever occupies himself with good works may be said to watch. Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). Again watch, lest you carelessly fall asleep. How long wilt thou sleep O sluggard (Proverbs 6:9).
2. Because you know not what hour your Lord will come. St. Augustine says this is written for the Apostles, for those who lived before us, and for ourselves and it is necessary for all of us because Our Lord comes to all and comes in two ways. He comes at the end of the world to all men generally, and he comes to each man at his own end, that is, at his death. There is thus a double coming and in each case God has willed that its hour should be uncertain. Moreover these two comings answer each to the other, for the second will find us as we were found at the first. As St. Augustine says, “The World’s last day finds unprepared all those whom their own last day found in like condition.”
Our Lord’s words, Watch ye therefore and the rest may also be understood with reference to the unseen coming of the Lord into our souls. If he come to me, it is written in Sacred Scripture, I shall not see him (Job 9:11). And so it is that He comes to many and they do not see Him. Therefore should we watch with much carefulness, so that when He knocks we may open to Him. Behold I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear my voice and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me (Apocalypse 3:20). (In Matthew 24)
Sirach 4: 11-19
Psalm 119:165, 168, 171, 172, 174, 175