The end of the school year is coming. Summer is coming. Easter is coming. That all sounds nice because those are all very good and encouraging things that are coming. How about these things: The storm is coming. That doctor’s report is coming. The invasion is coming. The end of the world is coming. Those things are coming as well. Some things that are coming are joyous and deeply fulfilling, but other things that come can scare the very life out of us. The great and final coming of Christ is both. Some things that come in life can be very scary. Why? Because when something breaks in it often causes upset as it rearranges the current state of affairs, and that can be unsettling.
In our “40 Days of Matthew” Lenten meditations the Gospel selection today underscores this point. Jesus said to His disciples, “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” In the days of Noah. These are not reassuring words. Noah’s days were the days of the flood, a flood that devastated the earth and ended life as people knew it. Matthew says that the coming of Christ will be something like that: “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. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.”
Suppose we knew that a comet was coming in five years that would completely destroy the earth and we did nothing about it, we took no precautions, we did not do anything to save the planet and simply went on with our lives as though nothing was going to happen. That is what it was like, Jesus said, in Noah’s time. And it might be that way when the Son of Man comes again. Why is it frightening to so many people that Christ will come again? Why is it not Good News?
Here is a hint: if Jesus is the Life as He says He is, then any life that is opposed to Him must give way. If Jesus is the Truth (and He says He is) then false claimants to the truth must cede to Him. If Jesus is the Way then false ways have to be fixed. And all of this will hurt. Some might say this is all negative, naysaying and doomsday talk. No, it is just common sense. If Jesus is the Way then all false ways have to be corrected. If Jesus is the Truth then all those falsehoods in your mind need to go away. If Jesus is the Life then all your false forms of life have to change. That kind of revolution is always painful. If Jesus is the Son of God then He will break into our sinful world like a cleansing fire, like a wild storm, like a revolution, like a thief in the night.
The coming of the Messiah is a time of joy that we should anticipate, but in our sin it is also a time of threat, because it means the end of our old way of life. Christ is coming. Are you ready?
Fr. Mark Murphy is the Undergraduate Chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Center.