Friday of Week 32 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Luke 17:26-37

Jesus is coming to the end of his public life. His passion and death is going to be a traumatic experience for his followers, which will take them by surprise and fill them with shock and alarm.

Later still but before Luke had put his gospel together, a cataclysm had overtaken Jerusalem when the city was laid siege to and utterly destroyed and the magnificent Temple with it. The disaster is commemorated in the arch in Rome erected to honour the Emperor Titus’ victory where one can see bas reliefs of the treasures of the Temple being carried off as loot.

Last of all, there is the end of all things when our world will be no more. The what or the how of that end is something we know nothing about. In a sense, all three endings are included in Jesus’ warning today. His main lesson is for us to be ready and not to think that we can postpone our preparations. When the end strikes it will be already too late.

Jesus gives the examples of the time of the Flood when people ate and drank right up to the moment of disaster (and we know from our media how unprepared people can be when sudden floods and other sudden disasters strike). Similarly in the days of Lot, people were leading their ordinary lives when fire and brimstone (perhaps it was an earthquake?) rained down on the wicked city of Sodom. Only Lot and his family, who had been previously warned, escaped. In our time, almost every day we see something in our own media of similar cataclysms.

When “the day that the Son of Man is revealed”, that is, when he comes at the end of time, it will be too late to take emergency measures. One will either be ready or not. If one is resting on the roof of one’s house (as was common at that time), don’t think of going down to save something. One person will be taken away and a companion left behind. The words seem to echo what happened at the fall of Jerusalem, and are similar to all natural disasters where some are swept away and those next to them survive. In context, the implication is that one goes to God and one does not.

These texts are not intended to fill us with fear and foreboding of a capricious God. They are timely advice not to be caught napping, but to remain alert to meet the Lord. It is good advice not just for the end of our lives, but for every day and every moment of every day. If I am always ready now, I will be ready then.

By living continuously and consciously in the presence of God, in that “divine milieu” of the Kingdom mentioned above, in the ever-present now, we are not going to be caught by surprise. Far from being afraid, we will look forward to the day with anticipation, leaving totally in God’s hands the hour of his call. In practice, too, that final call will not coincide with the end of our planet, but with the moment when our individual life on this earth will come to its end. Of the inevitability of that end, there is no doubt.

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