17 November. Friday, Week 32
All people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.
If through delight in the beauty of these things people assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them. And if people were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is the one who formed them. For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.
Yet these people are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him. While they live among his works, they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful. Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?
Jesus said to his disciples, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so too it will be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking, and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed all of them. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day that Lot left Sodom, it rained fire and sulfur from heaven and destroyed all of them, it will be like that on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.
"On that day, anyone on the housetop who has belongings in the house must not come down to take them away; and likewise anyone in the field must not turn back. Remember Lot's wife. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it. I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding meal together; one will be taken and the other left." Then they asked him, "Where, Lord?" He aid to them, "Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."
Oddly, the good things of this life can distract us from God himself. Because created things are so good, our love for them can be a substitute for loving God and stifle any desire to think about life beyond this world or about the God invisibly present in this good world of ours. Much closer to home, once the good meal is on the table, we seldom remember to thank the cook. The toys and gifts lavish on children are quickly taken for granted. Yet Wisdom plainly holds that from the greatness and the beauty of created things, their original author, by analogy, is seen.
This raises important questions for the agnostic and atheist as well as for believers. People are distracted by what they see, "because the things seen are beautiful." For believers even certain habits of worship can be an obstacle to drawing closer to God, if the rubrics of worship become more important than the One to whom we pray. Or parents can be overly concerned about the impression their children give to the neighbours, so that fear of shame becomes more important than love for children.
Clear guidance on such matters is given by Jesus, who breaks through all our face-saving devices and false concerns. He states in all four Gospels that "Whoever tries to spare their life, will lose it; whoever seems to forfeit it, will keep it." While living fully in the present, we must look behind the veil of signs to discern and worship the Creator. While loving others, we must be rooted in the love of Jesus, to deepen our capacity for love. If we forget God, our love easily becomes shallow and self-serving; such love cannot last. Only if we learn to share with others, will God entrust us with eternal life; and to hold on to life we must find it with Jesus, who enables us to truly love one another.
The gospel warns against being so absorbed in the ordinary things of life that we neglect what ultimately matters. The reading speaks of eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, marrying wives and husbands. These activities and many others are the stuff of life. They are very important. Life could not go on without them. They are so important that we may to see them as of ultimate importance; this is all there is.
But above and beyond all our daily activity there is a deeper reality, what Scripture calls the day for the Son of Man to be revealed. The Son of Man is revealed both at the end of time and at the end of our own personal lives. He is also revealed in the here and now; the Lord calls to us in and through the ordinary activities in which we are engaged. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. All of life is an invitation to contemplate the Lord who is at the heart of life. He calls out to us, as we go about our daily lives, to seek his constant presence. [MH]