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One Will Be Taken, and One Will Be Left

LECTIO DIVINA
First Sunday of Advent (A)
27 November 2016

PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life, you came and your power overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary when the Angel announced the coming of Jesus. In this Advent Season, come upon us too, that our Lord Jesus Christ may be born afresh into this world through us. Amen.

LECTIO. What does the Biblical text say?
Matt 24:37–44

37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.38 In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. 39 They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 43 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. 44 So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (NAB)

MEDITATIO. What does the Lord say in His Word?

Some insights on the Word.
AT AN UNEXPECTED HOUR

“Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come…. at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” The Gospel reading that ushers in the new liturgical year comes with a seemingly negative tone. What a way to begin! The gospel passage belongs to the last of the five discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. This is referred to as the “Eschatological Discourse.” Jesus preceded this discourse with a warning: “You see all these things, do you not? Amen, I say to you, there will not be left here a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down” (Matt 24:2). Later he was speaking to the disciples at the Mount of Olives, with the Temple in full view right across the valley. At his words of warning the disciples asked him, “Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt 24:3). There are two issues at hand: the destruction of the Temple and the coming of Jesus at the end of the age.

With Jesus proceeded with his discourse. He began with a series of warnings—false prophets who will lead them astray, persecution, apostasy, a great tribulation. Then he finally tells his disciples the circumstances of his coming. He said that the coming of the Son of man will be “as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west” (Matt 24:27). He also affirms the manner in which the Son of man will come with the words of the prophet Daniel who has used the expression in foretelling the establishment of the messianic kingdom: “they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt 24:30). Prior to the words of the Gospel text that we have read, Jesus already says “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matt. 24:36). It is at this point that Jesus speaks about Noah’s day.

The allusion from the Old Testament that Jesus gives at the beginning of our text does not help in softening the impact of his words. Jesus notes that the coming of the Son of Man will be like the days of Noah: before the flood, the people were eating and drinking, and marrying and getting married—activities that are normal and essential for the survival of individuals and the species. The original account from Genesis gives the reason for the flood, which is human wickedness and corruption of all living things on earth, the latter of which is also the result of the lawlessness of the human beings (cf. Gen 6:5, 12–13). There was no reference to what the people were doing as Moses communicated with God, built the ark and later boarded it. It was most probable that life went on without the people, save Noah and his family, knowing about the impending destruction. When the flood came, all the others have not prepared. This is what Jesus underscored—that since the people did not know, the flood carried them away.

The subsequent probable situations when Jesus comes are no less frightening: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.” Matt thus makes it applicable to either man or woman. As in Noah’s time, some were saved, others (in Genesis, all the rest in fact) were not. But more importantly, the situations given were ordinary, that is, working in the field and at the mills.

The mention of Noah and these concrete situations prepare Jesus’ audience then for what is imperative: “Stay awake!” This is the only way not to miss what is about to come. This is the invitation for all of us, for to this day, we continue awaiting the coming of the Son of Man. We can also speak of this as the time when Jesus comes into our own life, as in moments when he reveals more of himself to us in those powerful experiences that come at different points of our existence. It can also be that moment when God finally calls at the end of our earthly life. For whichever event, we stay awake like the master of the house who would not let his house be broken into.

Will the hour come? Yes. When? We do not know. Thus, it is no longer a matter of “if,” but “when.” The coming of the Son of Man would happen at a time when people will be eating and drinking, when they are getting married, when they will be working—in the field or at the mill, or in any other place. The Son of Man will come in the midst of ordinary activity, with neither fanfare nor announcement, in Jesus’ words, “at an hour we do not expect.”

Questions for meditation:

  • Am I prepared for the coming of Christ—in the end times, in the times when I meet him in this life, or when the end of my life comes?
  • What are my special activities for this season of Advent? How do I prepare myself and other people for the celebration of Christmas?

ORATIO. What do we say to the Lord, motivated by His Word?

This is the time for invocation. Prayer is responding to God after having listened to him. It is our assent to his will and his plan for us. Saint Augustine says, “Your prayer is talking to God. When you read Sacred Scripture, God speaks to you; when you pray, you speak to God.” We spend about 5 minutes in silence lifting our words to God.
After our moment of silence, we shall altogether say Psalm 122:
1 I rejoiced when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
2 And now our feet are standing
within your gates, Jerusalem.
3 Jerusalem, built as a city,
walled round about.
4 There the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
As it was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
5 There are the thrones of justice,
the thrones of the house of David.
6 For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
“May those who love you prosper!
7 May peace be within your ramparts,
prosperity within your towers.”
8 For the sake of my brothers and friends I say,
“Peace be with you.”
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord, our God,
I pray for your good.

CONTEMPLATIO. What conversion is asked for by the contemplation of the Lord?

Having lifted our prayers to the Lord, we simply rest in His presence. He has used his Word to invite us to accept His transforming embrace. Let his words linger, ever now as we feel him in his wordless, quiet presence. Let the rest of our week, especially those moments that we choose to spend in silence, be a time to simply enjoy the experience of being in the presence of God.

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Fr. Joel N. Camaya, SDB
SALESIANS OF DON BOSCO
Philippines – North Province