The end of the liturgical year must be just around the corner. Advent must be near. Today’s Gospel reading is giving us the heads-up: be ready. No signs will announce the imminent coming of the Christ.
And the warning is stern. Many will be going about life as usual and will not be prepared when he comes.
Many will behave today as they behaved in the days of Noah. Who can mistake this powerful allusion? God instructed Noah to build an ark to escape the coming flood. Yet, while Noah, seemingly like a madman, was building the ark, the people of his time were “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.” In other words, they were simply going about the normal activities of their lives. When the floodgates of the pounding storm finally hit, they never saw it coming.
Jesus doesn’t leave it at that. As though to highlight, underscore and underline his message, he presents yet another example. Remember the days of Lot? The people of Sodom “were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting and building.” They were going about their normal activities of life – just like us. But, with Lot and his family a safe distance away, “fire and brimstone rained on them all.”
Leave your belongings behind, Jesus tells us. Don’t be weighed down by belongings, attachments. Preparation for Advent and for the Second Coming requires that we be vigilant while awaiting his return. And we must live in a spirit of detachment from possessions – spiritual as well as material.
End-time warnings are never comforting or soothing. What, then, is the Good News in these bleak warnings? Just this, that God desires that we all enter into his eternal love and joy. If reminders of Noah and Lot is what it will take, then we must seek the Good News lurking in floods, fire and brimstone.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.