GOSPEL – according to Saint Matthew 24, 37-44
During that time,
Jesus said to his disciples:
37 “As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be when the Son of Man comes.
38 In those days before the flood,
we ate and we drank, we took a wife and we took a husband,
until the day Noah entered the ark;
39 people did not suspect anything,
until the flood came that swallowed them all up:
such will also be the coming of the Son of Man.
40 Then two men will be in the field:
one will be taken, the other left.
41 Two women will be at the mill grinding:
one will be taken, the other left.
42 Watch therefore,
because you don’t know what day
your Lord is coming.
43 Understand it well:
if the householder
knew what time of night the thief would come,
he would have taken care
and would not have allowed the wall of his house to be broken through.
44 So get ready, you too:
it’s when you won’t think about it
that the Son of Man will come. »
EVERYTHING CORRECTLY FOUND WILL BE SAVED
One thing is certain, this text was not written to frighten us, but to enlighten us: this kind of writing is said to be “apocalyptic”: which literally means that it “raises a corner of the veil”, they reveal the reality. And the reality, the only one that counts, is the coming of Christ: you have certainly noticed the vocabulary: coming, coming, advent, always about Jesus; “
“As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man…so also will the coming of the Son of Man be…you do not know on what day your Lord is coming… it is at the hour when you will not think of it that the Son of man will come. Which means that the center of this passage is the announcement that Jesus Christ “will come.”
Curiously enough, it is in the future that Jesus speaks of his coming… “The Son of Man will come”… we would better understand that he is speaking in the past! If he speaks, it is because he is already there, he has already come… Unless the word “coming”, here, is not synonymous with birth; the rest of the text will tell us more.
For the moment, I would like to dwell on what usually disturbs us in this gospel; it is the comparison with the flood, at the time of Noah and the warning that goes with it: “Two men will be in the field, one is taken, the other left. Two women will be at the mill: one is taken, the other left”. How to hear there a gospel, in the true sense of the term, that is to say a Good News?
As always, it is necessary to make a prior leap of faith: or else we read these lines like the serpent of the Genesisthat is to say with suspicion and we think that God’s choices are arbitrary… or else we choose trust: when Jesus tells us something, it is always to reveal to us the benevolent plan of God, it does not may not be to scare us.
In fact, it is advice that Jesus gives us; he takes the example of Noah: at the time of Noah, no one suspected anything; and what must be remembered is that Noah who was found righteous was saved; whatever is found to be right will be saved.
And there, we find a usual theme, that of judgment (sorting if you prefer), between the good and the bad, between the wheat and the chaff: “Two men will be in the fields, one is taken, the other left. Two women will be at the mill: one is taken, the other left”… This amounts to saying that one was good and the other bad. Obviously, speaking of the good and the bad as two distinct categories of humanity is a way of speaking: the good and the bad, the wheat and the chaff, there are some in each of us: it is therefore in the heart of each of us that the good will be preserved and the evil eradicated.
IT’S AT THE TIME YOU WILL NOT THINK THAT THE SON OF MAN WILL COME
I notice something else, it is that Jesus attributes himself the title of Son of Man: three times in these few lines. It is an expression that his interlocutors knew well, but Jesus is the only one to use it, and he does it often: thirty times in the Gospel of Matthew. If you remember, this is the Prophet Daniel, in the second century before Jesus Christ, who said: “I looked, during the visions of the night, and I saw coming, with the clouds of heaven, like a Son of man; he reached the Old Man, and they made him advance in front of him. And there was given unto him dominion, glory, and kingdom; all peoples, all nations and people of all languages served him. His dominion is an eternal dominion, which will not pass away, and his kingship, a kingship that will not be destroyed. (Dn 7,13-14). In Hebrew, the expression “son of man” simply means “man”: that being whose Prophet Daniel speaks is therefore a man, and at the same time he comes on the clouds of heaven, which in biblical language means that he belongs to the world of God, and finally he is consecrated king of the universe and forever.
But what is most curious in Daniel’s story is that the expression “Son of man” has a collective meaning, it represents what Daniel calls “the people of the Saints of the Most High” that is to say that the son of man is a collective being; he says for example: “The kingship, the dominion and the power of all the kingdoms of the earth, are given to the people of the saints of the Most High. His kingship is an eternal kingship, and all empires will serve and obey him.” » (Dn 7,27) or again: « it is the saints of the Most High who will receive the kingship and will possess it for all eternity. (7.18).
When Jesus speaks of himself by saying “the Son of Man”, he is therefore not speaking of himself alone; he announces his role as Saviour, bearer of the destiny of all humanity. Saint Paul expresses this same mystery when he says that Christ is the head of a Body of which we are members. Saint Augustine speaks of the total Christ, Head and Body, and he says “our Head is already in heaven, the members are still on earth”.
So that, in fact, when we say “We are waiting for this blessed hope : the advent of Jesus Christ our Saviour”… it is of the total Christ that we are speaking. And then we understand that Jesus can speak of his coming in the future: the man Jesus has already come but the total Christ (in the sense of Saint Augustine) is being born. And there, I read again Saint Paul: “The whole creation groans, it goes through the pains of a birth that still lasts” (Rm 8,22) or Father Teilhard de Chardin: “From the origin of things an Advent of contemplation and labor has begun… And since Jesus was born, finished growing, died, everything has continued to move, because Christ has not finished forming . He did not bring back to Himself the last folds of the Robe of flesh and love formed for Him by His faithful…”
When Jesus invites us to watch, it seems to me that we can understand it in the sense of “watching over” this great project of God and therefore of devoting our lives to carrying it forward.
This text is part of a very long speech of Jesus very shortly before his Passion and his death. He knows what will happen and this last message feels like a testament. This interview with his disciples began (at the beginning of this chapter 24) with the announcement of the approaching destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem; now this Temple was being restored, it would soon be completely finished, magnificent, superb! And Jesus announces that there will be nothing left. The Temple, let us not forget, was the sign of the Presence of God in the midst of his people, the guarantor of the durability of the Covenant. Obviously, this prediction causes a sensation and the disciples deduce that the end of the world is coming soon. And they are both curious and worried about what will happen: “Tell us when it will happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the world. (Mt 24.3).
Jesus does not answer these questions precisely, but he shows extraordinary solicitude: he does not deny that men will go through periods of terrible distress for some, raging storms (when Matthew writes his gospel, we know the persecutions) , on the contrary, he warns them and invites them to be vigilant.