For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left.
Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.
These words of Jesus can seem frightening. The talk of judgment with two radically different outcomes: Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Will I be taken? Will I be found acceptable in God’s eyes when he suddenly comes?
I think the Lord is inviting us to imagine the immediate end of our lives, not to frighten us, but to help us finally see things as they really are. People with terminal illnesses often come to see with blinding clarity what is important in their lives and what isn’t. They let go of a lot of the things they used to care about: resentments, money, chasing after prestige. And they redirect their time and attention to the people and things that do matter.
So let’s imagine that the Lord whispered in your ear today and told you that today would be your last day of life. What would you do? Is there someone you would say “I’m sorry” to? Is there someone you’d say “I love you” to?
Well, don’t wait. In the immortal words of Nike: “Just do it!”
—Fr. Tim Howe, SJ, is president of St. Xavier High School, in Cincinnati, OH.
Above the clamor of our violence your word of truth resounds, O God of majesty and power.
Over nations enshrouded in despair your justice dawns. Give to us pilgrims a discerning spirit and a watchful eye to understand the hour in which we live.
Hasten the advent of that day when the weapons of war will be banished, our deeds of darkness cast off, and all your scattered children gathered into one.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain, whose day draws near: your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit are one God, forever and ever. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team