37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark,39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
The suddenness of the Second Coming seems to be implied here. That people will go about their lives performing the range of daily human acts. The suggestion that this will be a surprise to them, the same as it was for the people in the days of Noah. This astonishment results because they were oblivious to any warnings there were.
In Genesis, regarding the story of Noah, we have no sign that he was actively warning others about the coming judgement and their destruction because of their corruption and violence. It would be amazing if he did not do so. We have no exact time line regarding how long he took building the ark, but some indications regarding his children’s ages and when they might have started their families show a fairly long period of perhaps around a 100 years.
St. Peter writes:
if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Pe 2:5)
That Noah was a herald/preacher/proclaimed of righteousness seems clear and his message ignored. Jesus is warning us of complacency. We do not know the day or the hour of or own judgement upon death.
St. Augustine. He said this Watch, not to those only who heard Him speak at the time, but to those who came after them, and to us, and to all who shall be after us, until His second coming, for it touches all in a manner. That day comes to each one of us, when it comes to him to go out of the world, such as he shall be judged, and therefore ought every Christian to watch that the Lord’s coming may not find him unprepared; and he will be unprepared for the day of His coming, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared.
Dr. John Bergsma provides an excellent summary for today’s readings:
The First Reading and the Psalm present the Christian life as a “pilgrimage” to Zion. The Second Reading and Gospel present the Christian life as “wakefulness” and abstaining from sensual indulgence in this life. The two images can be combined. On a pilgrimage, one doesn’t get caught up in pleasure-seeking. You have to walk long hours on the camino during the day and sleep where you can—sometimes in austere places—during the night. And if you make a habit of stopping and “hanging out,” you’re not going to finish the way. The readings for this Mass call us to renew our commitment to living this present life as a pilgrimage to the heavenly Zion.
In verses 40–41 follow the “scenario follows Jesus’ example of Noah and the flood (24:37). The righteous will be left, just as Noah and his family were spared (Sir 44:17); the wicked will be taken, as Noah’s generation was swept away by the flood.”
Because of the influence, especially here in America, of the novel Rapture theology proposed by some, we culturally assume that those who are “taken” in this Gospel passage are righteous.
This is further pointed out by Dr. Brant Pitre:
If you look at it, you can see that when Jesus says one is taken and one is left, whether one man is taken and one man is left or one woman is taken and one woman is left (again if you think about the imagery of the of the flood as the background to what he is saying), what happened here? Noah’s family was taken. In other words, they were saved from the judgment of the flood, and the rest of people were left, but they weren’t left behind to live on the world and have time to repent or something like that, they were left out of the salvation and exposed to the flood, and they perished in the judgment of God. So what Jesus is essentially getting at here is the separation of the righteous and the wicked that will take place at the final judgment.
As does the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture:
More likely Jesus speaks in the idiom of the prophets, where those who are taken are those captured or killed in judgment (Isa 8:13; Jer 6:11; Zech 14:2) and those who are left constitute the surviving remnant that is spared (Isa 1:9; 4:3; Jer 40:11; Ezek 14:22).
Regarding Jesus’ knowledge regarding when this will happen:
St. Jerome. Having declared that of that hour knoweth no man, but the Father only, He shews that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being ignorant they might live in perpetual expectation of His coming, and thus concluding the whole, He says, Watch therefore, And He does not say, ‘Because we know not,’ but Because ye know not, shewing that He Himself is not ignorant of the day of judgment.
The Catechism regarding Jesus’ knowledge makes these distinctions:
472 This human soul that the Son of God assumed is endowed with a true human knowledge. As such, this knowledge could not in itself be unlimited: it was exercised in the historical conditions of his existence in space and time. This is why the Son of God could, when he became man, “increase in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man,” and would even have to inquire for himself about what one in the human condition can learn only from experience. This corresponded to the reality of his voluntary emptying of himself, taking “the form of a slave.”
473 But at the same time, this truly human knowledge of God’s Son expressed the divine life of his person. “The human nature of God’s Son, not by itself but by its union with the Word, knew and showed forth in itself everything that pertains to God.” Such is first of all the case with the intimate and immediate knowledge that the Son of God made man has of his Father. The Son in his human knowledge also showed the divine penetration he had into the secret thoughts of human hearts.
474 By its union to the divine wisdom in the person of the Word incarnate, Christ enjoyed in his human knowledge the fullness of understanding of the eternal plans he had come to reveal. What he admitted to not knowing in this area, he elsewhere declared himself not sent to reveal.
- Catena Aurea Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers, Volume 1 St. Matthew – Verbum
- The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings for Year A – John Bergsma
- The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible꞉ The New Testament
- Catholic Productions, Commentaries by Brant Pitre
- The Gospel of Matthew (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition
- Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
- S. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, A.D. 396. (Ep. 199, 3.) Thomas Aquinas. Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, St. Matthew (J. H. Newman, Ed.; Vol. 1, p. 836). ↩
- The Word of the Lord: Reflections on the Sunday Mass Readings for Year A, John Bergsma ↩
- Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament ↩
- Catholic Productions, Brant Pitre ↩
- The Gospel of Matthew, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture, Edward Sri and Curtis Mitch ↩
- St. Jerome, Presbyter and Monk of Bethlehem, A.D. 378. From the Commentary on the Four Gospels, St. Matthew (J. H. Newman, Ed.; Vol. 1, p. 836). ↩