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Bible Study at St. Helen's Westcliff

First Sunday of Advent Year B (II)

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Understanding Mark 13:33-37: A Study in Vigilance and Preparedness

It is a passage that emphasizes the importance of vigilance and preparedness for the coming of the Lord.



- Mark's Gospel is generally believed to be the earliest of the four Gospels, likely written during significant upheaval and persecution for early Christians. This context is crucial for understanding the urgency and apocalyptic tone of Mark 13.

- The destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD is a pivotal event that looms large in this Gospel. Mark 13, often called the "Little Apocalypse," reflects the turmoil and anxiety of this period.

Mark 13 in the First Century:

- This chapter is Jesus' response to his disciples' questions about the end times and the destruction of the Temple. For early Christians, these teachings would have been a source of warning and comfort during times of trial and uncertainty.

Cultural Perspectives

Jewish Teaching Methods:

- Jesus' use of parables and metaphors was a standard Jewish teaching method. These were not just simple tales but carried deep spiritual and moral meanings, often reflecting the realities of the listeners' lives.

- In Mark 13:33-37, the parable of the watchful servants reflects the cultural understanding of stewardship and responsibility, common themes in Jewish teachings.

Cultural Significance of Vigilance:

- The call to vigilance in this passage would resonate with a culture accustomed to uncertainty and oppression. For the Jewish community, the expectation of a Messiah and the constant threat from external powers made the theme of readiness and alertness particularly poignant.


1. Warning Repeated

- The repetitive warning in Mark 13:33 suggests a deep emphasis on the message's importance. This repetition serves as a literary device to underscore the urgency of being prepared for Christ's return.

2. The Stage

- Mark 13 encompasses themes of destruction, persecution, and tribulation, setting the stage for the final coming of the Son of Man.

- Jesus instructs his followers to remain vigilant, as the timing of these events is unknown.

3. Be vigilant

- The term 'awake' (Greek: agrupneo), is interpreted as a call to spiritual attentiveness and readiness.

- This interpretation aligns with the broader Christian teaching of being vigilant in faith, especially in uncertain times, reflecting the early Christian community's situation.

For Discussion:

1. Historical Context:

- "Imagine living in the first century during the time Mark's Gospel was written. How do you think the early Christians felt about the future and their faith amidst the turmoil and uncertainty of their time?"

2. Cultural Perspectives Exploration:

- "Why do you think Jesus used parables and metaphors in his teachings? Can you think of a modern-day parallel to the parable of the watchful servants?"

- "Discuss how the themes of stewardship and responsibility in Jewish culture are reflected in this passage. How do these themes resonate with our culture today?"

3. Theological Insights Reflection:

- Why might repetition be an important literary tool in conveying urgency in biblical texts?"

- How does this duality appear in today's world? How do we balance fear and hope in our faith journey?"

Family Link:

- How can we apply the lesson of being vigilant and prepared in our own lives, especially in times of uncertainty?

- Share a personal experience where staying spiritually vigilant helped you through a challenging time.

For Reflection:

Take a few minutes to meditate on the phrase 'Stay awake.' What personal insights or feelings does this evoke in you about your spiritual journey?"

Creative Reflection:

- "If you were to create a piece of art (a drawing, poem, song, etc.) that captures the essence of Mark 13:33-37, what would it look like or sound like?

Prayer of Saint Hannibal Mary Di Francia:

Adorable Lord Jesus Christ, you told us to be watchful and taught us watchfulness in many ways. Please grant me the grace of being vigilant; strengthen my feeble nature and my unsteady will so that I may endure and win out over the lethargy of sleep. Our Lord Jesus Christ, I appeal to your Sacred Heart that was watchful even when you were sleeping. Heart of my Jesus, excite faith, fervor, and zeal in my cold heart in order that I may turn from so much sleep and may be fond of prayerful watchfulness (The Father's Soul, 721).

viktor,rcj 28-Nov-23

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