Discerning the times

s for the End of Time theme, the Lord answered to the question in Matthew’s “little apocalypse” (Matthew 24) in a way that is apparently ambiguous but much revealing if one reads carefully. Check this small passage but remember that the Fathers of the Church held the notion that this was a “dual” prophecy. Jesus is describing events to come about 35 years later but those events are a scale model of the end of the world.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.”

The wise shall know how to discern the nearness of the times but not the exact day and time.

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father.”

The certainty of the end is not to be challenged. The world was created by the Word and by the Word it will come to an end. Jesus almost repeats the iota unum: “I said it and therefore it will come to pass.” But no one knows because one keeping time is the Father who alone determines the seasons of mankind.

“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.”

Wickedness has to be at its maximum like in the days of Noah. The element of surprise was high but not for Noah who was given the instruction to go into his ark. Even Noah did not know what exactly was going to happen. So the difference between Noah and the rest of mankind is one of grace: he is given the awareness and the wisdom to act accordingly. He only supplies his faith.

“But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

Here comes the big contradiction, we know the summer is near because we see the tender leaves in the fig tree but … we will be surprised. The thief analogy is telling us that yes, we know there have been burglaries in the neighborhood, we reinforce the locks, make sure all is closed and secured but the thief comes anyway. In my case a loaded shotgun is there at the ready but I do not expect the thieves to ask for an appointment. Jesus says He will come the same way.

I see no contradiction between “discerning the times” and “not knowing the day and the hour.”