Today’s first reading continues with the accounts in the Book of Genesis. We move from the story of Cain and Abel at the beginning of Genesis 4 to the story of Noah in Genesis 6. Let me fill in the highlights in between. The descendants of Cain are described in terms of violence (Lamech) and yet at the same time as craftsmen, nomads, and minstrels. We also learn that Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, who is described – not in terms of occupation – but in terms of the practice of worshiping God as Seth’s lineage “began to invoke the LORD by name.” (Gen 4:26). Genesis 5 is a genealogy of the generations from Seth to Noah. – and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Taking the text literally, between the sin of Cain and the Flood is a period of 1,600 years. Quite a long time to let things play out, so to speak.
As we enter the Season of Advent, it strikes me that “Hope” and “waiting” are even more a part of our lives in these times. In the dark hours before dawn, I muse about waiting and hope in the season of Advent, I was pondering what is higher on my list – waiting for Christmas or waiting for a coronavirus vaccine, herd immunity and the return to normalcy. If I am honest, it is the latter. It feels like we are living in the time of Noah. We are not just waiting for the flood waters of illness to reside, but we are optimistically waiting now that the vaccines are on the horizon.
But while I am optimistic, am I hopeful? I know I am waiting, but am I hopeful? Are you?
Matthew 24:37-44: 37 For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. 39 They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. 42 Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. 43 Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. 44 So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
Commentary. Our gospel combines several pictures in order to describe the arrival of the Son of Man (v. 37). The Noah parable (vv. 37–39) contrasts Noah and the other people of his generation. The flood came upon them suddenly and had dire consequences for many. The pictures of the two men in the field (v. 40) and the two women grinding meal (v. 41) emphasize the suddenness of the coming and the separation that it will bring. Since the exact hour of the coming is unknown, the only appropriate attitude is constant watchfulness (v. 42). This attitude is encouraged further by the story of the homeowner (v. 43). If a homeowner knows when a thief is coming, he exercises watchfulness at that time. But since the time of the Son of Man’s coming remains unknown, the watchfulness must be constant (v. 44). Continue reading