Before the pandemic, my partner and I enjoyed house-sitting for friends when they would go out of town. They would put their cherished possessions, their plants and their pets into our care, and we would tend them in their absence.
Caring for somebody else’s property takes the grace to set aside how you would do things. You need the ability to listen to and appreciate how the property owner sees things, what they believe is important, what regimens and rules they set for the creatures under their care. It’s a gift to be able to use their stuff and enjoy their space while they are away. You want things to be as they would want them to be upon their return. That’s the joy of being a good house sitter: being able to hand back a ship-shape property at the end of your stay.
In today’s reading from the Gospel according to Mark, the thing that pops out to me is the bit where Jesus tells his followers to be like the slave who is given a job in the Master’s absence. He needs to be ready, with the job done, upon his Master’s return.
It struck me that this life that I believe is mine, that I am sure belongs to me, is not mine at all. I’m taking care of a property that really belongs to God. It’s the same notion that leads Paul to talk about our bodies as temples. Much as we like to think we’re in charge, we aren’t the owners of our beings. We’re just the stewards. We’re house-sitting.
This puts a different spin on the “be awake because your Master is coming,” passages. When I was a house-sitter I knew more or less when to expect the home owner to return. What if I did not? Would I have been very diligent about keeping the dishes clean and put away, keeping my clutter picked up, and so forth? I would have had the house ready for the owner’s return, had I known.
At the end of my life or the end of the world, whichever comes first, I will need to hand over the keys to the property known as Laurie Gudim. As a good house-sitter, I’ll want to have things ship-shape for the owner’s return. In the case of my soul, this means that I will want to have taken care of the least and the lost, loved my enemies, loved my neighbors, learned what I could have learned and taught what I knew to teach. For those were the instructions left by Christ when he gave me charge over things.
I know there have been lots of ways I have done less that I ought to have done. I haven’t stepped up to the challenge of being a good house sitter. And that will be as it is. There’s still today, though. And tomorrow. I can be awake now, expecting the Master’s return.