The gospel for this Sunday takes us back to the days of Noah. A quick search on the internet shows that one of the most popular items associated with the bible is Noah’s ark. Many of them are children’s items ranging from toy animals to puzzles of the ark.
But when Jesus speaks about Noah and the ark he is looking beyond popularity. Jesus reminds his disciples that Noah’s ark was a call to readiness. Jesus says people were eating and drinking, and getting married right up to the day the flood started. They chose to ignore the signs of the end and choose listen to carry on as if their world would last forever.
Jesus does not want his disciples to make the same mistake. They have been listening to him speak about the kingdom of heaven all through their association with him. They should not let the kingdom of earth distract them from God or lull them into thinking things will never change. They live in time and time is measured by change. Better to look beyond what is limited and concentrate on serving a kingdom that is lasting. As Jesus states so clearly, the Son of man is coming at the time you least expect. In the next chapter Matthew includes three parables of the Lord, each one a striking call to readiness: the wise bridesmaids, the faithful servant, and the nations standing before the throne of God.
In the first reading the great prophet Isaiah looks forward to the age of the Messiah. He describes this age with characteristic flair. First he sees the mountain of God soaring way above all others. Of course, the temple mount was an impressive sight, with the great temple of Solomon dominating the skyline. But Isaiah has more than geography and architecture in mind. Isaiah is thinking in terms of life’s journey. He knows that all too often the view of God’s mountain was too often obscured by mountains of human making. In others words, human pride gets in the way of service to God. He wants to see these mountains of pride reduced so people can see their way to God without interferences.
Isaiah looks forward to the day people from every nation will want make the journey to mount Zion. On that mountain they will learn the ways of God. Once humanity sets pride aside and values service to God’s way big changes will happen. Isaiah has a vivid image for this too.
With God’s values in their hearts, people will promote peace rather than warfare. Weapons will be reshaped into tools of life. Swords once using for cleaving on the battle field will be transformed into plowshares for cutting into the ground to prepare fields for planting. Spears once extended to take life, will be transformed into elongated hooks to prune trees so their fruit is more plentiful.
Isaiah finishes with one more image. When the age of the Messiah comes, people will see by the light of the Lord. This light enables people to see the world differently. When viewed by the light of heaven the world is filled with gifts from God, and people regard each other as members of the family of God.
In the second reading Paul carries forward this light imagery. He urges his readers to cast off their old ways and clothe themselves with something new. He urges them to cast off darkness and put on “the armor of light.” Paul knows the faithful have to fight a battle against so many influences what would draw them away from God. But if they put on the Lord they will have the protection they need against such harmful influences. Paul is not shy about listing the kinds of influences he is thinking of: drunkenness, lust, anger and jealously. These are deeds of darkness. But the day of the Lord is drawing closer. It is time for the faithful to prepare to welcome that day.