The Flooding Image of Noah

by Ben Cheng
First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5

Romans 13:11-14

Matthew 24:37-44

Happy New Year! We come to the beginning of the new liturgical year. During Advent, it reminds us the arrival of Jesus in history at Christmas. We are also aware of Christ's arrival now in our hearts. But the third theme, and what the Gospel reading focused on, is the coming of Jesus, in glory at the end of time. What does that mean, and what is this doctrine of the Son of Man coming all about?

We begin with the passage taken from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus says to his disciples, "As it was in Noah's day, so will it be when the Son of man comes." (Matthew 24:37) These words are definitely not comforting. Noah's time was the time of the flood which devastated the earth and ended lives. Jesus specified further, "For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark." (Matthew 24:37) The arrival of the Flood was sudden and its impact devastating. It might be the same way when Jesus comes.

Why is Jesus just not giving us good news? If he is the Life, which he is, then any lives opposing to him must give way. If he is the Truth, and in fact he is, then any false claimants to the truth must be ceased. If he is the Way, then any false ways have to be abandoned. Unfortunately, we are standing right at a "fault line" in the spiritual order. We are "gluttonous", seeking our ultimate fulfillment in other ways. Nevertheless, we are meant to realize a deeper and liberating truth, in which nothing here on earth will last, and everything will pass away! Therefore, do not expect to find our ultimate fulfillment in the earthly things, but look elsewhere, look higher.

Jesus is not just one more prophet or teacher among many, but instead He is the very incarnation of God's eternal wisdom, love, and the way of being. "The Word became flesh, and dwell among us" (John 1:14). It means that he is the link to the eternal power that runs through, suffuses, and transcends all things. He is the power which endures even when the plants, the planets, and the earth itself fade away. He is the Son of God breaking in to our sinful world like a cleansing fire, like a wild storm, like "the night the burglar would come" (Matthew 24:43).

The whole point of this "flooding image" is not solely to frighten us, but rather telling us what to look for. Do not keep your eyes fixed on the always passing world. Rather, we are looking to Jesus. Advent, from Latin word adventus, means "a coming, approach, arrival". Christ is coming to us! So "stay awake" (Matthew 24:43), watch for him, look to him, and wait for him. In this season, our Gospel reading is prompting us to keep our spiritual focus, to keep our eyes on what really matters.

This is an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron's homilies, including "Incoming!", "Look to the Son of Man", "The End of the World as We Know It", and "The Second Coming". For more information, please visit Word On Fire.