The message of the first weeks of Advent is “So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come!” (Mt 24:44) Scripture and science tell us, the end will come. Scripture tells us that no one knows when, but that there will be signs. The signs may be the sun turning dark, fire in the sky, earthquakes, etc. But the signs may also be a diagnosis from a doctor, or even just when we look into the mirror and see wrinkles and grey hair!!! If our end should come today, would we be ready? Are there things in life that we know we should do, but are putting off? Has God placed a call in your heart, to which you are saying, ‘Maybe later Lord’? Are you thinking that God may have a plan for your life?
We are preparing to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas. However, the Advent message of the Church is really to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ at the end of time. We Christians become so familiar with the teachings our faith, that we sometimes fail to appreciate how radical our Faith is. The Final Coming of Jesus, is truly an Extraordinarily Radical Belief! Have you thought much about how one day, Christ will come among us to “Judge the living and the dead”, as our Creed we say each Sunday at Mass tells us?
In my own journey, I have often wondered why this strange belief that Christ, who already came 2,000 years ago, would come again at the end of time. Here is what I’ve discovered. If you go throughout the prophecies of the Old Testament, predicting the coming of the Messiah and God’s promised kingdom, you will find basically two schools of predictions; one peaceful, one violent. E.g. In Isaiah 2:1-5, Is 11:1-10, and Is 35:1-6, 10, (the first readings of the first three Sunday’s of Advent), we hear of a kingdom of peace, and justice, where “One nation shall not raise the sword against another”, and where “The wolf will be the guest of the Lamb… and the baby shall play by the cobra’s den..”, and where the “Ears of the deaf will be cleared, and the lame leap like a stag, and the mute sing”. But there is also a school of prophecy like those we heard in the first readings of the Sunday Mass just a few weeks ago in Malachi (3:19-20) that says “Lo, the day is coming blazing like an oven when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble…”, or Joel; “The earth quakes, the skies tremble, sun and moon grow dark… for great is the Day of Yahweh, and very terrible – who can face it?” (Joel 2:10,11)
So, which is it? A terrible day of destruction? Or, a day of fullness of peace and justice? The answer is; both! In Christ’s first coming and second coming, we see the fulfillment of both prophecies. Two thousand years ago, Christ came as a baby; poor, innocent, adorable, gentle. He grew amongst us and taught us about God’s love for us, and called us to return to God. He then laid down His life for us on the Cross, and fully gave his divine life, for us. Then He Rose! Then He breathed out on us the Holy Spirit, giving us the power to “Become Children of God” (Jn 1:123). Then Christ ascended into heaven, and angels proclaimed that He would come back in the same way as he went to heaven (Acts 1:11). But until he comes again, his disciples, his church, should wait until they received the power from on high, the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5). This Holy Spirit was to empower the disciples to “Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…” (Mt 28:19-20). This work of the Church is to continue, until Jesus comes again as judge. St. Peter gives us the best explanation of the two comings of Christ, in his second letter he writes:
“But there is one thing, my dear friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then with a roar the sky will vanish, the elements will catch fire and melt away, the earth and all that it contains will be burned up. Since everything is coming to an end like this, what holy and saintly lives you should be living while you wait for the Day of God to come, and try to hasten its coming…” (2 Peter 3:8-11).
So, the answer of why two comings, is because If the Lord had come in power two thousand years ago, or even today, many sinners would be condemned. God in his Mercy designed a way to encourage us to repent, and even give us the power to repent, by our receiving the Holy Spirit given to us through the Incarnation, life, death and Resurrection of Jesus. We receive the Holy Spirit by confessing our sins, and receiving baptism, and that Spirit is nourished in us through the Eucharist. So, that during this time, between His two comings, we may be conformed to His kingdom, and lead others into it. I like to speak of it this way, the time between the two comings is all the same “Day of the Lord” that the Old Testament predicts. It is just a “Divine Day” spread over many “human days”.
What about you? Are you using this time to follow the Lord more closely? Are you using this time to seek and follow God’s will for you? As St. Peter reminds us, this time is PRECIOUS! As vocation director I often hear a person say to me, “Father, I felt I’ve always had a call, but never pursued it. God spoke to my heart, but then something else came up, and I never acted on what I felt God was calling me to do.” The message of advent could simply be stated as don’t let this happen to you!
I believe most people feel God is calling them to be married and raise a family. To pursue that call, people date. In chaste dating, one learns much about relationships, love, the other, and about one’s own self. Not every person we date, do we plan to marry, but we find there is much to learn in the dating. So too, it should be with religious life. I believe every Catholic should go on a Come and See experience, to learn a bit more about what religious life is, to learn different ways of listening to God, to see how religious live and pray, and learn about the charism of that particular religious order. On a Franciscan Come and See one will learn about the Franciscan Spirituality which is a great gift to all people, married or single, or religious!
Let us prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Let us stop putting off that call in our heart, to follow His will above all else. Come to one of our upcoming Come and See weekends. Even if you never become a religious (most who go on the weekends will not become a religious), you will learn more about how to listen, and follow God in your life. You will learn more about God, Franciscan Spirituality, and Yourself. You will learn more about YOUR VOCATION, whatever it might be!
Our Next Come and See weekends are February 17-19, and April 28-30. Go to “Upcoming Events” for more information.