The Coming of Christ

FR. LEONARD M. PUECH, O.F.M.

May the celebration of Christ's first coming into the world remind us of his everyday coming into our lives, so that it may not be said of us: "He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him".

"Advent" comes from a Latin word meaning "coming" or "arrival." In English it means the liturgical season preparing the celebration of Christmas, which commemorates the first coming of Christ into the world. We say the first because there is to be a second coming of Christ into the world at the end of time for which the first coming was a preparation.

As there was a first coming of Christ and there will be a second for all the world, there is also for each one of us a first and a second coming of Christ. This second coming will be for each one the hour of his death. We shall be prepared for this second coming according to the reception we give Jesus at his first coming. We know the sad words of Saint John about the way Jesus was received by his chosen people: "He came unto his own and his own did not receive him" (Jo. 1,11). Lest the same misfortune befall us, let us see in what ways Jesus comes to us and what dispositions are necessary to receive him.

It is not possible to describe the many ways in which Jesus comes to us, nor the time he chooses for his coming. He may come any time and therefore we must always be ready to receive him.

Jesus comes to us first of all through his word. When we read the gospel, it is Jesus himself speaking and we must take his words as addressed to us personally. The word of God is not just the written word, as Protestants would have it. It is first of all the spoken word, for faith comes from hearing (Rom. 10,17; Jo. 17,20), not from reading. Jesus speaks to us through those whom he sent to preach and to speak in his name (Mt. 28.19; Mk. 16,15; Acts 1,8) and through their successors the Pope, the bishops and the priests duly commissioned by them in the measure they are faithful to their mission. We are the People of God, but every time we refuse to accept some of the words of Jesus, the old tragedy is repeated: "He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him."

Jesus comes to us through the sacraments, since all the grace of the sacraments derives from him. Above all he comes to us in the Holy Eucharist, making himself present upon the altar with his sacrifice, coming to us in person in holy communion. Some of the sacraments can be received only once, baptism, confirmation, sacred orders and to a point matrimony. But the three others, especially penance and Holy Eucharist can be received more than once, even often. Jesus wants to forgive our sins; he wants to come to us that we may enjoy in faith his presence and his love; he offers his sacrifice for us, that offering it with him it bring upon us countless blessings; and so many don't care and neglect his offers: "He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him!"

Jesus comes to us in still another way, through his inspirations. I do not speak here of the extraordinary means he uses at times to manifest his will: dreams, visions, revelations, especially when he calls somebody to a special mission, as with Saint Paul, Saint Francis of Assisi and other saints. These cases are not very frequent, and besides such an inspiration must not be followed without the approval of authority, because the devil may use the same means in order to deceive. I speak rather of the ordinary inspirations, which come to us daily, especially when we recollect ourselves in the presence of God. Then the Holy Spirit, who dwells within us, brings to our mind the faults we have committed, the occasions of sin we should avoid or some attachment we should break, or shows us some good to be done. Or else he inspires into our heart regret for our past, or gratefulness, or desire to please God and gives a taste for purity, for all what is good and noble. Or Jesus may speak to us from outside, through our parents to warn us against some danger or to exhort us to a better life; or he may use a friend or even a book to solicit our will. Alas! too often we turn a deaf ear to Jesus: "He came unto his own and his own did not receive him!"

Jesus comes to us even today in many ways. May we not be so indifferent to his coming that he may have to weep over us as he wept over Jerusalem: "If you also had known in this your day what would have brought you peace! But now it is hidden from your eyes. Days are coming upon you, when your enemies will encircle you with a rampart, will shut you on every side and surround you; they will dash to the ground you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you stone upon a stone, because you did not recognize the time, when you were visited" (Lk. 19,42-44).

The material ruin of Jerusalem, horrible as it was, is only a pale figure of the spiritual ruin we would incur, were we to remain indifferent to the coming of Jesus. This calamity however we may avert, if we use the means at our disposal and pave the way in our heart as Saint John the Baptist, repeating Isaiah, invited his hearers to do: "Make ready the way of the Lord, make straight his paths" (Lk. 3,4).

The first means we must use is prayer. Without grace it is impossible to know Jesus, as he himself declared to Peter: "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven" (Mt. 16,17). Without grace it is impossible to attach oneself to Jesus: "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him" (Jo. 6,44). And grace, we know it, is given to prayer: "Ask and you shall receive" (Lk. 11,9).

To make straight the paths of the Lord: "Every mountain and hill shall be brought low" (Lk. 3,5), the soul must be humble. Not only because grace is given to the humble, but above all because without humility faith is impossible; there can be no submission of the mind (Jo. 5,44) and God does not reveal himself to the proud, but only to the humble (Lk. 10,21). Besides pride refuses to submit to anybody. The Church exhorts us to make a special effort to pray during Advent, both because prayer obtains grace and is an act of humility and thus prepares us for the coming of Christ.

Confession is also another good preparation. It purifies the heart and helps towards that total detachment from creatures necessary to follow Jesus (Mt. 10,37-38). It opens the eyes of the mind for: "The sensual man does not perceive the things that are of the Spirit of God" (I Cor. 2,14), while Jesus proclaims: "Blessed the pure of heart, for they shall see God" (Mt. 5,8).

When Jesus comes, he calls: "Come and follow me." He invites, he does not force anyone. His is a call of love: "Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one, for my head is covered with dew, my locks with the drops of night" (Cant. 5,2). We have seen that picture illustrating that verse of the Canticle: Jesus standing at the door in the darkness, a lantern in his hand, and knocking; but there is no knob on the outside of the door, because the door of the heart opens only from inside. Jesus wants us to receive him and follow him out of love and out of freedom. Yes, he demands sacrifices, but he also promises a wonderful reward: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man listens to my voice and opens the door to me, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me" (Apoc. 3,20). The same reward he promised to the Apostles: "I appoint to you a kingdom, even as my Father has appointed to me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you shall sit upon thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Lk. 22,29-20). Should we not be generous as they were, when Jesus called them: "Come follow me ... And at once they left their nets and followed him" (Mt. 4,20). Jesus has left us the food, that will give us that strength and inspire the same generosity: "the wheat that makes young men grow strong and the wine that makes maidens blossom" (Zach. 9,17). This is why the Church invites us to receive holy communion to prepare for the coming of Christ.

May the celebration of Christ's first coming into the world remind us of his everyday coming into our lives, so that it may not be said of us: "He came unto his own, and his own did not receive him".

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Fr. Leonard M. Puech, O.F.M. "The Coming of Christ." In Spiritual Guidance (Vancouver, B.C.: Vancouver Foundation of Art, Justice and Liberty, 1983), 211-214.

Republished with permission of the Vancouver Foundation of Art, Justice and Liberty.

THE AUTHOR

The late Fr. Leonard M. Puech wrote a popular column for the B.C. Catholic from 1976 to 1982. Those columns were compiled and published by the Vancouver Foundation of Art, Justice, and Liberty as the book Spiritual Guidance in 1983. The VFAJL is interested in reprinting Spiritual Guidance. Anyone who would like to contribute to this worthy cause please write: Dr. Margherita Oberti, 1170 Eyremount Drive, West Vancouver, B.C. V7S 2C5.

Copyright © 1983 Vancouver Foundation of Art, Justice, & Liberty




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