Are you ready for this? A reflection on LAST Sunday’s gospel (Mt 24:37-44)

Yes, last Sunday.

(I was busy last week finalizing preparations for the Men’s conference last Saturday [I will blog about that soon], so I have with regret neglected last week’s post – hence this one.)

There are a few things going on in this gospel. The clear theme is preparation, and fittingly so given our entry into Advent: the door through which we enter the new liturgical year (and Happy New Year!). Preparation links the readings. In the first reading Isaiah’s call for preparation is for the Temple of the Lord and the authority it yields; changing swords into ploughshares and the bringing of peace, a peace that is found in the gates of Jerusalem (as the psalm says). The second reading calls for a self preparation: an internal examination, if you will, and live decent lives. In calling for such though, there becomes established a dialectic between those prepared and those who are not.

But the Gospel, how does the gospel prepare us? By way of a threefold message Jesus punctuates preparedness first by referring to the days of Noah, and how he had prepared. Again, exposing the dialectic in the everyday, one worker will be taken, the other stays behind. Finally, Jesus parabilizes about the householder and the thief: “So stay awake!” Clearly we need to be prepared, but for what? The gospel says for an hour unexpected; therefore vigilance is the key.

Now if from your ambo you heard anything like what I heard from mine, this was the key to the gospel: getting us prepared for the season in which we enter, and rightly so for it is Christ that we are preparing for both in ourselves and as a community in the context of the church. But there is one issue that I for one would have been pleased to hear, but seemed to have been overlooked.

rapture cartoon

This scripture is a marque reference for Protestants to defend the rapture theory. It says in scripture, one is left and one is taken; but there is something lacking. Who is taken and who is left behind? Scripture doesn’t state that explicitly, so it could be either way. Some Protestants believe that the righteous will be taken and will be given their heavenly reward. They may also use 1st Timothy chapter 4 as support. But I tend to think otherwise.

Leaving Timothy’s letter out of it (it is a tenuous link anyway), the context makes it clear if the righteous are taken or left behind. Jesus points to the past, “Back in the day of Noah…” The question to ask then is, “Was the lives of the righteous taken away or left behind?” It was Noah and his family who were the righteous ones, and they were left behind. A similar question could be asked of the thief in the night; “Are the goods of the righteous (those who stayed awake) taken away, or are they left behind?” If someone was not watching, the goods would have been stolen.

To counteract the rapture theory, the context of the “left behind” passage seems to suggest that we want to be left behind! The righteous (Noah and his family) were ‘left behind’; the goods of the righteous (those who stayed awake) were ‘left behind’; so surely those who are prepared for the coming of the Son of Man will also be ‘left behind’.  It is the final separation between the righteous and the unrighteous which we need to be prepared for.

And of course, if you happen to be working in the field and they start to rise to heaven, don’t grab their shoes thinking they’re going to get there.


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