"Where the body is, there also will the vultures gather" (Luke 17).
As the Church nears the end of the liturgical year, the Lectionary lays out its store of endtime readings to invite us to deeper attention and reflection on judgment and accountability. Luke and other evangelists overlap these eschatalogical themes with the actual historical events of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple during the Jewish-Roman Wars in 70 CE. One version of the saying about vultures gathering where there is a corpse changes vultures to eagles, a reference to the Roman legions.
The failure to accept God's invitation to conversion and reconciliation results in catastrophe. Learn the lesson, and change while there is still time. Jesus cites the time leading up to the flood, when everyone mocked Noah and his ark and continued their eating and drinking and revelry until the rains began to fall. Then it was too late.
The reading from Wisdom credits the ancients for their awe of nature, even if they called physicl forces like wind and fire gods, for they were searching for the source of created things. Reason can bring thinkig people to basic faith in the unseen power of God. What is scorned is the willful rejection of the obvious, or the ignorant preoccupation with material wants and worldly goals to the exclusion of life's transcendent questions: Who are we? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life, and are we accountable for how we choose to live?
Jesus warned his contemporaries that judgment can come swiftly and unexpectedly. "You know not the day nor the hour." A sudden crisis can turn our secure lives upside down and bring us face to face with hard reality and decisions we have foolishly postponed.
The coming of Advent is a time to take our faith questions seriously. For those who seek God, the future is not about the end but the beginning, not about death but rebirth. Nature offers parables to teach us wisdom. Autumn leaves surrender their lives in a burst of glory. The dark nights and cold winds draw nature into a fallow time of regeneration and expectation. Creation urges us to take our place within the seasons of life and death, surrender and return. This is where God waits to renew the mystery of life within us. Now is the perfect time to pay attention.