The Flooding Image of Noah

First Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Romans 13:11-14

Brothers and sisters: You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Matthew 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 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. 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. 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. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 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. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

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.

Posted: November 27, 2016

Ben Cheng


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