GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
This is Jesus's prophecy of the coming of the Son of Man in the days of Noah. So let’s read it through together and ask a few questions. It reads as follows:As were the days of Noah, 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 when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched 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 hour you do not expect.So what is Jesus talking about? What is this passage all about? The first thing I want to say here, and this is very important, is to emphasize that although some Christians claim that Jesus is talking about a secret rapture of true believers, in which some people will be taken, they will disappear mysteriously, if they really believe in Jesus, and others will be “left behind,” that is not what Jesus is referring to. What Jesus is referring to in this passage is his second coming at the end of time. He's referring to the final judgment, not to a secret rapture of true believers.Let me give you a few reasons why he's referring to the final judgment, you can see it by looking at the context.1. Although the lectionary doesn't have this verse, the verse immediately before the first line “as were the days of Noah,” is the famous verse where Jesus says “no one knows the day or the hour.” And that verse is referring to when heaven and earth will pass away, that no one knows when that's going to be, not even the angels, only the Father knows. So that reference to the day or the hour, is the day or hour of final judgment. That’s the first point, the context is about the final judgment2. Jesus’ allusion to the days of Noah shows you that this is about the cosmic judgment, the judgment of the whole world. Because at the time of Noah, if you go back to Genesis 6-9, what Genesis describes is a global flood where all the wicked people in the whole world perish in the judgment of God, and only a few people, 8 people, are saved from the judgment of God. So what Jesus is doing is making a comparison. Just as in the days of Noah, many people were busy marrying and giving in marriage, eating, drinking, and not getting ready for the global judgment of the flood, so to, at the coming of the Son of Man, many people are going to be just consumed with the things of this world, and they won't be ready for the final judgment. They won't be ready for, the Greek word, the parousia, the coming of the Son of Man, when he will come to judge the world. Just like God judged the whole world at the time of the flood.3. This is really critical. If you look at it, you can see that when Jesus says one is taken and one is left, whether one man is taken and one man is left or one woman is taken and one woman is left (again if you think about the imagery of the of the flood as the background to what he is saying), what happened here? Noah's family was taken. In other words, they were saved from the judgment of the flood, and the rest of people were left, but they weren’t left behind to live on the world and have time to repent or something like that, they were left out of the salvation and exposed to the flood, and they perished in the judgment of God. So what Jesus is essentially getting at here is the separation of the righteous and the wicked that will take place at the final judgment. If you want an analogy with this, you can look at the very next chapter in Matthew, the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25, where Jesus separates the righteous from the wicked, he separates the sheep from the goats, and the righteous go into the eternal kingdom of the Father, whereas the goats go into the eternal fire of destruction prepared for the devil and his angels. So this is the separation of the final judgment, it's not a secret rapture of true believers. And, in fact, Jesus himself says that when he says so will it be at the parousia, the coming of the Son of Man. This is the second coming, right, it's not a secret rapture of true believers. That word never occurs.4. All this is very clear if you look at the ending of the passage, because what's the main thrust of the passage? It's the unexpected nature of the judgment. In other words, you don't know exactly when the Son of Man is going to come at the end of time. He uses a couple different images for this. He says watch, because you don't know on what day the Lord is coming. So he says keep awake, so it’s kind of like keep vigil for the coming of the Son of Man. But then also, he uses the parable of the thief in the night. So he said if a householder had known what time and night the thief was going to break in, he would've been ready, he would've stayed awake. So too you also need to stay up, need to be awake, you need to keep watch and be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. And that last verse ties it back around to the earlier verse in Matthew 24:35-6, which says that the hour of heaven and earth passing away is unknown.So the whole context of this passage isn’s about a secret rapture, it’s about the final judgment. It's about the second advent. It's about the parousia of Christ at the end of time. That's a really short analysis here, if you want more on that, I did a whole Bible study on the rapture called Jesus and the End Times: A Catholic View of the Lats Days, where I go through some the other problems with that view. But I just wanted to knock it out here because it is very important for you to see, that the Church begins the liturgical year of the Gospel Matthew, begins the first Sunday of Advent, not with a passage about the rapture, it begins the first Sunday of Advent with a passage about the final advent, about the second coming of Christ at the end of time, which is already going to give us a clue as to what the Season of Advent is going to be about. It’s about preparing us, not just for the first coming of Christ at Christmas, but preparing us for the final coming, the final advent of Christ, at the end of time.SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT
(Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
So what Paul is saying here is, “Look, Jesus is coming back. The day of the Lord is at hand. Put off works of darkness that belong to your previous life, before you came to faith in Christ—maybe when you were a pagan you did such things. But now put on new clothing.” Just like in the morning, you put on a new piece of clothing, so too now, you need to put on the “armor of light." So what is this armor of light that Paul is talking about here? Kind of a bizarre image there, armor of light. Well, Paul actually identifies it. Obviously in context, he means certain virtues in contrast to these vices. But here, in verse 14, he says something interesting. He says:
...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh…
Now hold on. I thought Jesus was a person, not a garment. Why does Paul—he’s going to mix his metaphors throughout his letters, it’s fascinating how he’ll do this. He’ll frequently use things in very strange ways. Why does Paul speak about putting on Christ as if Christ were a garment? Well, again, it’s helpful to look at a parallel passage in another of Paul’s letters. This one’s from the letter to the Colossians 3:9. And although there’s some debate about Pauline authorship of Colossians, we’re not going to go into that in these videos; we’re not going to get into the details of authorship. The Church in the lectionary ascribes all of the traditional letters attributed to St. Paul (with the exception of Hebrews) to Paul. So reading from St. Paul to the Colossians. So that’s how I’m going to treat it in these videos, and I’ll deal with questions of authorship and things like that in some other forum.
In this case, in the letter to the Colossians 3:9, we read these words. Here Paul is exhorting the Colossians to avoid sins, and listen to what he says. Actually, we can back up to verse 7. Colossians 3:7:
In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
That’s fascinating. Some translations actually have here, a little more literally, “put off the old man and put on the new man.” Now who is the old man and who is the new man? Well, the old man is Adam, the one who brought sin and death into the world. And the new man is Christ, the new Adam. So Paul’s describing here, this is another example of him using the image of a person and mixing it with the metaphor of a garment. Now you might think, why would Paul do something like that? It’s bizarre. But the answer actually lies in Judaism.
If you look at ancient Jewish traditions about the fall of the Adam and Eve, like in the book called The Life of Adam and Eve
and other ancient writings, you’ll see that in Jewish tradition, when the fall took place, there was actually a garment involved. What Jewish writings will say is before the fall, Adam and Eve are clothed in garments of light. Actually, they’re sometimes called the garments of glory, and when they commit their first sin, they’re stripped of those garments of glory. They’re stripped of these garments made of light. In other words, they’re stripped of their righteousness that they had before they sinned. So the expectation was that when the Messiah came and the New Creation came back, the garments of glory that Adam and Eve had lost would be restored to humanity, that we’d be able to put on, once again, the garments of light and the garments of glory.
So Paul here is using this metaphor—old man, new man, and clothing—as an echo of the fall of Adam and Eve, and of Christ as the new Adam, who is going to clothe those who belong to His body in His own virtues, in His own glory, in His own righteousness. He’s going to clothe us in His righteousness. So if you take that image and you go back to Romans 13, now all of a sudden it makes sense. Paul is saying, “Put off the works of darkness,” which is like the clothing of sin, and “put on a garment of light given to you by Christ”—with one key shift. Notice, it’s not just a garment of light, it’s the armor of light that he wants us to put on.
Now what does that mean? Well, armor is clothing, but it’s the kind of clothing you wear when you go into battle. So in this case, Paul is presupposing that the Roman Christians are being called to spiritual battle. It’s the battle against the darkness and the sin of this world—and the battle against our own inclinations to sin that we all experience within our hearts and in our minds. So Paul here is saying, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is your clothing; He is your garment.” And I can’t help but think about how powerful this is if you really ponder the way Paul is imagining what it means to be a Christian. A Christian isn't just somebody who believes Jesus, believes in Jesus, listens to Jesus. A Christian should be an icon, a kind of living icon of Jesus. He should wear Jesus as his clothing. He should put on the armor of light, which is Christ Jesus Himself. This is a very mystical way of approaching our moral life. Christ, as Paul will say elsewhere:
...it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…
His virtues, his righteousness becomes my righteousness, and so I have to live accordingly, according to Jesus Christ.
Finally, the last statement Paul makes there:
...put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
What does that mean, the flesh? Well sometimes when people read Paul’s statements about the flesh, they think he means just the body per se. But it’s a little more precise than that. For Paul, the body is good. He goes around proclaiming the Resurrection of the body. Sōma
is the Greek word. But when he talks about the flesh, sarx
in Greek, what he’s referring to is this fallen human nature, which of course includes your body, but it’s emphasizing our bodies in its fallen state, in which we’re inclined to sin. We’re inclined to the darkness rather than to the light.
And so what Paul is saying here is don’t gratify the desires—in Greek, epithymia
, literally “the lusts”—of the flesh, these disordered inclinations and desires of our flesh. But instead, cover them, conquer them, with the armor of light, which is Jesus Christ Himself. So, powerful, beautiful image there of how we can prepare for the second coming of Christ at the end of time, but also how we can prepare for the celebration of the first advent of Christ in this Christmas season.
And in order to see how that works, let me close with two quotes from the living tradition. First, this one’s from St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century, and we’re very grateful that he wrote a commentary on all of the letters of St. Paul. And I’ll be quoting from these pretty frequently throughout these videos as I work through the letters of Paul. And in his commentary on Romans 13, the passage for today, I was really surprised to find that St. Thomas explicitly says that this very passage was being read during Advent in the 13th century. And here is what he has to say about its meaning:
[I]nasmuch as the Church reads these words during Advent, they seem to refer to the salvation which Christ worked during his first coming. Accordingly, we can understand the Apostle speaking in place of all believers since the beginning of the world.
They can also be taken to refer to the time of mercy, when one begins willing to depart from past sins. For at that time he is closer to his salvation than previously, when he had a dead faith…
So if you look, in other words, you can refer to the salvation that is nearer to us, both in terms of the advent of Christ—whether it’s His first advent at Christmas or His final advent at the end of time—or you can refer to it on an individual level. And the fact of the matter is, that whether Jesus comes in two years or two thousand years for the cosmic judgment (the general judgment), when it comes to me and you, our particular judgment is going to be sooner rather than later. He is coming soon to judge us. And so it’s crucial that we be prepared, that we be ready to encounter Christ. And that’s really what the Advent season is about, helping us prepare for the coming of Christ, the second coming of Christ, by going back and recalling and celebrating and preparing for the first advent of Christ at Christmas.
In closing, the last quote here from the tradition is a bit more practical. So how can I live out Romans 13 in my daily life? Like what can I do to put on the armor of Jesus Christ, to put on the armor of light in my own personal life? And in this case, I would say that Paul’s metaphor can be applied really directly to our own daily life. Mainly this: just like every day you get up and the first thing you do is take off your pajamas and put on your clothing for the day, so too, every morning you should get up and put on the armor of light. Put on the light of Christ in daily prayer, in morning prayer—spending time in meditation every single day.
You don’t have to take my word for it. You can just listen to the words of St. Francis de Sales. He talks about the importance in the Christian life of getting up early and putting on Christ by praying. And he uses the imagery here of light to do so. Listen to this:
Since prayer places our intellect in the brilliance of God’s light and exposes our will to the warmth of his heavenly love, nothing else so effectively purifies our intellect of ignorance and our will of depraved affection… I especially counsel you to practice mental prayer, the prayer of the heart, and particularly that which centers on the life and passion of our Lord. By often turning your eyes to him in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with him. You will learn his ways and form your actions after the pattern of him. He is “the light of the world”… Set aside an hour every day before dinner, if possible early in the morning, when your mind is less distracted and fresher after the night’s rest.
That’s from St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life
, book 2, paragraph 1. And St. Francis is laying out a basic principle there of the necessity of getting up each day and beginning one’s day with prayer, especially meditation on the life of Christ. That’s how we put on Christ every single day. We read about Him, we pray about Him, we meditate on His life and His virtues, and therefore we can grow to imitate Him as we get closer and closer to Him. And we begin our day, not just with the natural light of dawn, but with the supernatural light of Scripture and its witness to Jesus.
And for my money at least, that’s a really powerful challenge to all of us. How do we live our daily life? What’s the first thing you do in the morning? If the first thing you do in the morning is to pray, is to encounter Jesus in Scripture and to put on His life, to put on His light, through reading the Word of God and meditating on Him, then you are in fact going to grow to be closer to Him. It’s going to determine, it’s going to affect the way you live the rest of your day.And it’s not just a nice spiritual exhortation by the way, too. Because notice, Paul said to put on the armor of light, and the reality is we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Today, this day, you’re going to encounter temptations. You’re going to encounter tribulations. You’re going to encounter trials, and you need to have put on the armor of the light of Christ in order to engage in that spiritual battle
For full access subscribe here >