THIS WEBPAGE IS ALSO AVAILABLE
AS A PODCAST HERE
The season of Advent is a great time to reflect both on Jesus’ coming among us as a vulnerable little baby born in a cave in Bethlehem as well as His Second Coming at a time unknown to all of us but His Heavenly Father (Acts 1:7).
The Liturgical Calendar gives us a “warm up” towards the end of November as we focus on the Gospels on our being ready to meet Jesus at all times.
While we can only speculate, based on scripture and certain church approved private revelations, as to when Christ will return to set things right for troubled rebellious humanity it is hard not to sense that something big is on the horizon in the next year or two, perhaps something figuratively or even literally earthshaking!
While this may or may not point to signs of His Second Coming, all the tumult and confusion we're experiencing these days, both in and out of the church, brings to mind the birth pangs of a mother in labor that our Lord spoke of in Matthew 24:8 and John 16:21.
As we check off our Christmas shopping lists, some of us may also be checking off a list in our own minds about various End Times prophecies from scripture. While these by no means point to any certain dates regarding either our Lord’s return or End Times they are a popular subject on the internet these days nontheless!
Certainly there was indeed quite a bit of malfeasance in the world when Jesus first came as a little baby. As we all know the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt to avoid the Christ child’s being killed by the murderous King Herod whose reign was by no means the only brutal one in the time around the first century!
Ours is by no means the first era in which “because the wickedness is multiplied the love of many will grow cold” as Jesus put it in Matt 24:12 in the Olivet Discourse. This discourse has been interpreted as referring both to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Romans in 70 AD, and, more indirectly perhaps, to Christ’s Second Coming as well.
And yet, that line about love grown cold does seem to ring true these days, does it not? Our world is filled with those addicted to Selfies and selfishness, people who love virtue signaling rather than virtue, as well as those making themselves Gods and Goddesses of social media building castles in the air on foundations of sand.
A world where power trumps truth, one that rejects God, who is truth Himself in favor of adherence to what Pope Benedict XVI once called the dictatorship of relativism.
We’re living in a time of "wickedness multiplied" where goods in stores are kept under lock and key rather than those who would otherwise steal them with impunity, and indeed do so. A world where large swaths of our major cities have become no-go zones where the horrible scourges of drug addiction, homelessness, runaway crime, and carjackings make them increasingly unsafe and even uninhabitable...Check!
There’s another line from the Olivet Discourse that rings uncomfortably true these days: “There will be wars and rumors of wars..for nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom” (Matt 24:6-7). The bloodbaths in Ukraine, the Middle East, and possibly coming soon a major conflict with China over Taiwan have all contributed to an abundance of speculation in our media as to whether or not we’re heading into World War III… Check!
And then there’s this line, again from the Olivet Discourse also found in Luke’s Gospel 21:10: “There shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in places.” While there has been no uptick in cataclysmic seismic eruptions this year, we’re still dealing with the aftereffects of the Covid pandemic with its deaths and injuries both from the virus itself and, more significantly, from ineffective and often harmful protocols for treatment. And it seems like we're getting frequent warnings of more pandemics to come, as well as increasing notices of “food insecurity” on the rise in the third world… Check!
With all the chaos, lawlessness and confusion both in and out of the church, is it any wonder there are so many of us trying, even perhaps struggling, to hold on to our faith in an increasingly pagan landscape!
We know we can count on Christ’s Second Coming occurring as much as did His first in that grotto in Bethlehem. But not knowing the day or the hour can help all of us be attentive to His fervent desire for each of us to stay in a state of sanctifying grace. This involves living a sacramental life of prayer and devotion both to the Eucharist (in Mass and Adoration) and Penance (in getting back into that state of grace as soon as possible after any mortal sins we've committed).
Whenever our Lord's Second Coming might be, each one of us will know firsthand upon our death whether or not we will experience an Eternity of Love, Goodness and Peace with our Lord and (hopefully our loved ones) in Heaven forever. Or one of misery, and hatred forever in Hell (or if needed some time in Purgatory before reaching heaven.)
In this season of gift giving, now more than ever, we must remember not to ignore our Lord’s supernatural gift of Hope to us, (one of three along with Faith and Love). Hope is essential these days to persevere in our faith, and to keep sane in a world gone mad.
While I mentioned earlier a foreboding sense of something big coming soon, I’d like now to focus on a more positive kind of “something big” event, rather than whatever tumultuous occurrences might lie ahead. This is one that should give us all at least some comfort. During Advent, we can not only focus on Jesus as the Word Incarnate as St. John calls our Lord in Chapter 1 verse 14 of his Gospel. But, in a larger sense, Jesus is Hope Incarnate as well!
Consider these words in this regard from the late John Cardinal O’Connor from a homily he delivered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the first Sunday of Advent in 1993.
He related then how he’d been to confession with an elderly priest who shared with him this wonderful insight on the season:
“Now is a moment of grace. Something big is about to happen; something very big. And it’s going to happen to you. We are about to begin Advent. God has become incarnate in the human condition, for you, personally for you. God has become a little baby in the middle of the sins you have just told me about. You have reason for new and wonderful hope.”
His Eminence then spoke of his excitement over the coming of Advent at hearing these words, adding that Christ not only came to us as a person 2000 years ago, but that he still comes to us each day at Mass and, as the Cardinal expressed it “in a thousand different ways. And that He would have come if I—if you—were the only person in the world.”
Isn’t that a great and comforting thought? You might have heard it said that Christ died not just for all of us but that He would have died for you and you alone! Well, he would have been born in that cave in Bethlehem just for you as well so that you could have Eternal Life!
So In the end, the Word incarnate is also Hope incarnate. Don’t give into despair, no matter how appropriate it might seem to do so! You might have read or heard this dozens of times these days but it’s still true: the Word incarnate, Christ, gets the last word, not Satan and his demonic minions! And His is not just the winning side, it’s also the loving side!
If nothing else, strive to ask our Lord, our Blessed Mother and whichever saint you may choose in prayer for much needed grace to withstand the onslaught of evil all around us these days!
Pray for your fellow Catholics, Christians, and those of other faiths or (especially nowadays) those of no faith at all knowing that you’re by no means alone in experiencing hardship in these treacherous times!
Also, would you rather live in a world without God with no future hope of salvation and an eternity of love with Him in heaven? Or would you rather live in one rather where God gives us free will and strives, with our assistance, to bring as much good out as possible out of whatever evil results from humanity's wretchedly wrong choices as possible?
Keep in mind as well that it never hurts to offer up whatever physical or emotional sufferings you may be dealing with to Jesus for the conversion of sinners, the forgiveness of sins, reparation for sin and the salvation of souls.
Think also of these words from St. Paul as well. “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). May the hope in these words help you now more than ever, as you strive to be a “citizen in training” for heaven!