“But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36)
These words, recorded in the Gospel According to Matthew, have Jesus clearly stating the final hour, the second coming of Christ, will not be known to humankind. Even Jesus, the God-man, did not seem to fully understand this mystery while He was on Earth.
Throughout the centuries, especially after the invention of the Guttenberg press, much ink has been spilled pinpointing this unknowable time. The reasoning behind identifying a specific time, presumably, is to determine how much time we will have to “clean up our act.” If the big event is twenty years away, we can relax for at least nineteen years, eleven months and then fast and pray for thirty days. As good as that sounds, Jesus paints a different picture in Scripture:
“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.” (Matthew 24:37-44)
The preceding message from Jesus is clear and unambiguous: right up to when the Son of Man returns, things will be “business as usual” in the day and hour of the Second Coming. The dualities of life and death, good and evil, prosperity and famine, the common and uncommon, will all be in place when Jesus comes in glory. The mysterious scenario depicting some taken while others are left behind can be interpreted to mean that some will be ready while others will be caught off guard, and the need to “watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).
A humorist once said, “Live each day as though it were your last, and one day you’ll be right.” A slight twist on this would be “Live each day as though Jesus were returning, and one day you’ll be right.” For Catholics, living each day in a state of grace is the goal, and a sure measurement of readiness to meet the Lord. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, in our neighbor, and in our daily prayer prepares us for the ultimate encounter with Christ in the final hour. Praying to the Father for our daily bread will serve us in good stead as we strive to live in the “sacrament of the moment” while relying on God’s providence. The following illustrates the dynamic of our daily life in Christ.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” (Matthew 6:31-34)
Taking seventy years (or 80 for those who are strong) as a guide, we are given an average number north of 25,000 days here on Earth. Let us pray for the grace and strength for the Day of the Lord and the final hour that will usher us into eternal life in Heaven.