Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
1st Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
The season of Advent reminds us that everything is not quite right with the world. The liturgies of Advent challenge us to pay attention to the voices of the prophets proclaiming the coming of Messiah. We just heard Jeremiah remind his fellow countrymen that God was faithful and that he would fulfill the promise he had made. Messiah would come. During this time of expectation, we are asked to ponder Who He is that comes, where he comes from, to whom He comes, why he is coming, when he will come, and how he will come.
St. Bernard was of the opinion that there are three comings. It would be good for us to ponder these three comings. We shouldn’t limit our considerations to the first coming of Christ to Israel, when the righteous Branch of David’s stock was born of a virgin in order to set all things right; a coming that was seem by those few who kept watch by night. Neither should we focus our attention on the second coming that will happen at the end of time, which will be seen by all mankind. The third coming serves as a bridge between the two; in it the Lord comes in spirit and power for our rest and consolation. We need not look up to the sky or out into the wilderness. We need only look into our hearts. The third coming is invisible; in it the elect see the Lord within themselves.
In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh, clothed in our weakness. Though he was the Son of God, he emptied himself of all his majesty as God and took to himself our human nature. The New Adam, offspring of the New Eve was the shoot that sprouted from the root of Jesse. In his conception by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, He became God-With-Us. As the Holiness and Mercy of God made tangible, Jesus imparted holiness and righteousness to all who would accept him. Holding firm to God’s promise, believers find the fountain of grace from which they could drink deeply of the living waters of salvation. In Christ God manifested his mercy and fulfilled His promise. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth. Those who are meek and humble of heart will learn the message of love and find admission to the kingdom of the father. We stand at the crossroads of time, here we recall Christ’s first coming in the flesh as the Son of Mary and we await his second coming in glory as the Judge of the living and the dead.
During these weeks of Advent let us ponder the Lord’s Third Coming, the mean time between Christ’s birth and his return in glory. Listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. During these days of holy anticipation, we are encouraged to pay attention to the Lord’s visitations as we ponder His Word. Recall this passage of Scripture: He who fears God will do good, but something further has been said about the one who loves, that is, that he will keep God’s word. Where is God’s word to be kept? In the heart, as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. Like the prophet, we must allow the Word to enter our hearts and take possession of our desires and our whole life. We are called to live in constant awareness of God’s presence.
Let us be attentive for the call of the Master. Upon hearing his voice, we must respond, letting the word enter our hearts and take possession of our desires and direct our will. We need to keep our eyes open to the wonders of God’s love and let Him use us as He will. Only then will we make progress in faith and love; only then will we find God in all our ways and surrender to His care and will. The best way to prepare for the Lord’s coming at the end of time is to abound in love for one another in the present.
The coming of Jesus is not just a past memory, nor is it a long-awaited event in the future. The coming of Christ is an essential element of Christian living. In this mean-time, the coming of Jesus continues to be experienced right here and right now. Jesus comes into our midst as the Word is proclaimed, and as the Sacraments are celebrated. The Lord Jesus comes to us with his challenges and his encouragements, his invitations and his consolations. His comings are subtle, and if we are not attentive, we can miss them. We need to be ever alert, because we do not know the day or the hour of our visitation.
These words of the Psalmist may help us on our way: “Your ways Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:5). If we keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep us. The Son with the Father will come to us. The great Prophet who will build the New Jerusalem will come to us and put a pure heart and a steadfast spirit within us. This third coming will fulfill what is written: As we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly man. Just as Adam’s sin spread through all mankind and took hold of all, so Christ, who created and redeemed all, will glorify all, once he takes possession of all. Let us make every effort to see the Lord in our daily life: in the members of our community, in the poor and the needy, in the breaking open of the Word and in the Eucharist.
Yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope” (Khalil Gibran).