Even if possible now, it has always been imagined in the minds of humans. From earliest history, such as our scriptural writings, there has been an inclination to speak of the end times. It is a common theme at the movies. Even Jesus spoke of such a happening. In those accounts there is an implication that it would be brought about by God.
To begin the new cycle of the annual story of Jesus, as we follow it through our calendar, beginning today with Advent Sunday, our reading starts with such a picture.
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.’
The many other passages that suggest this dramatic conclusion to life on the planet utilize dramatic signs accompanying the end of time. Today’s reading follows one such dramatic account.
WHAT IS ITS MESSAGE?
These readings are known as apocalyptic. They have tended to caste fear in the minds of people because they are so easily read literally. I don’t find this helpful. I believe if we read them allegorically, then we find a very valuable message. The theme is a fundamental one of life. It is the theme of ‘life and death’. This is vital for developing an understanding of the gospel message.
On the one hand, life is temporary, transient, subject to decay, yet it happens so slowly that it is part and parcel of the way we live. The catch is that we want things to stay the same. We like such certainty and its security. But if things stay the same indefinitely they can also lose their vitality. Humans are created to grow and flourish into the fullness of human life.
To do this our ultimate Easter message highlights it as ‘death and resurrection’, and it enlightens us to a grander experience. At it’s heart, it is a message of spirituality.
Today’s gospel gives us a descriptive picture to reflect upon this ‘life and death’ spiritual message. I want to highlight two images from our reading. One is the Son of Man, the other is of the two women in the field grinding at the milling wheel.
The first image is of the Son of Man: We commonly associate such a figure with Jesus. A trap is to think that in such a passage the reference to Son of Man implies the return of a Jesus like figure. But the Son of Man is a reference to something beyond the earthly figure of Jesus. Rather, it is the divine meeting of the presence of the God affectionately called Father, with all humans in the reality of the Holiness of Spirit. Certainly, it is a correlation with the Spirit of Jesus, but also importantly, Jesus the Christ, in universal proportions. It is the divine personality present in all creation.
Such a presence is all around all the time. This leads us to a question. When will it become part of our life? No one knows the time or day or night. Matthew highlights the uniqueness of this happening for all people.
The second image is of two people working in a field, sitting in a car, watching a movie, or hard at work. We all respond to situations differently. When or how come one person experiences the moment with a special sensitivity to the divine presence and the other may not, cannot be determined. We are all unique and things happen in our life according to a plan none of us can really grasp or understand. Life and death is the process of living and we all experience it differently.
The very beginning of the cycle of our yearly readings call us to be mindful of exactly what life is about. It is guiding us on the spiritual journey of life. Our growth and development toward the maturation and fullness of Christ encourages us to grow in spirit by letting go of the old and looking forward to the new.
Each year is a long, tiring and demanding one. But as we come to its conclusion we are presented with this grand message. Let go of the past and irrespective of our condition, including age, look forward to the new birth that the divine calls in us. The seeds of Christmas are being planted even at this time, and we look forward with anticipation to what life’s new opportunity has in stall for our ongoing faith journey