Advent, the season marking the four Sundays before Christmas, developed as a way of helping Christians prepare not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in his first coming, but also to help them look forward to his glorious second coming. When Christ ascended into heaven, the angels announced to the apostles that He would come again in glory as they had seen Him going up. In the mystery of faith during Liturgy of the Eucharist, we proclaim: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!
As far as we are concerned as individual disciples, Jesus’ first coming took place in our lives when we were baptized or when we came to faith in Him. Individually, Christ comes to us time and again in a variety of ways. There are three particular occasions when His presence in the midst of the Christian community becomes, so to say, more intense – when we gather to pray, when we read the Scriptures, and when we celebrate and eat His Body and Blood.
Advent is a time of the Lord’s favor, the day of salvation, peace, and reconciliation. The patriarchs and prophets longed and prayed and yearned with all their heart for this time. The just man Simeon saw that time and his joy was boundless.
The question we have to ask ourselves is: How will this world be when the Lord comes? Obviously evil desires will disappear; there will be no more cheating, no more lies, no more greed and selfishness, no more hypocrisy, no more arrogance, no more religious tricks, etc. We naturally desire to be powerful, rich, or famous. In actual fact, the deceitfulness of riches, the pleasures of life, and anxieties of life can overtake us as we go through life daily. When we see other people possessing more things, we can develop a spirit of unhappiness and complaining, resulting in evil thoughts and lack of seriousness in our relationship with the Lord. However, Christ our Lord says: Be careful!
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In His first coming, our Lord came in our flesh and our weakness; in this middle coming. He comes in Spirit and in power; in the final coming, He will be seen in glory and in majesty. The Gospel demands are clear: “But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father. Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come” (Mark 13:32-3).
Seriously, this is a clear warning statement from our Lord. What does it mean to be ready and watchful? Does watching mean trying to figure out when Jesus is going to come? No. It simply means knowing and doing the will of our master, Jesus Christ, as we await his return.
This type of watchfulness is clearly defined by our Lord. Jesus said, "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into" (Matthew 24:43). And, "who, then, is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household, to give them their food at the proper time? It would be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns" (Matthew 24:45-6). In other words, a child of God understands the will of God, delights in the will of God, and engages in doing the will of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Advent teaches us that our savior Jesus Christ came not only for the benefit of the people of His own time. His goodness is still there for us to share, through faith, through prayer, through the sacraments, and through good works. The Church wants us to understand that as Jesus came once into the world in the flesh, so now, if we remove all barriers, He is ready to come to us again at any minute or hour to make His home spiritually within us in all His grace.
This reflection on the Season of Advent was written by Br. Patrick Adu-Baah, C.S.C., who is the Director of Holy Cross Family Ministries in Ghana.