Bishop's Column

Waiting and watching for Christ

Christ has come into the world.

More than 2,000 years ago, the Word of God, the eternal Son of the Father—God, himself—became a man, and came into the world as an infant, born quietly, in poor and humble circumstances, while few took note of his arrival. He came to fulfill God’s promise through the prophets; he came to conquer sin and death; he came so that we human beings—fallen, sinful, and mortal—could be transformed, and share in God’s own divinity, living the life of the Trinity itself, forever.

Those who knew that God had come into the world were those who were already seeking God, awaiting his promise, or listening for his voice. The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph heard the Lord tell them, through his angels, that they would bring God into the world and become his family. St. Elizabeth, thankful for the extraordinary grace of God in her own life, recognized that her cousin Mary had become the “mother of the Lord.” The shepherds outside Bethlehem heard a great proclamation as they humbly and quietly tended to their sheep. The wise men of the east—the Magi—knew that something extraordinary happened, because they sought the truth, looking up at the skies in wonder and searching for the presence of God in the world.

Christ comes now into the world. 

Christ comes into the world now, in the Eucharist and in the other sacraments, in the Church, in Sacred Scripture, and in our hearts. Christ comes into our lives to give us the gift of his redemption, of his sacrifice, of his promise. Christ comes into our lives to heal us, and set us free. Christ comes into our lives to make all things new—our hearts, our minds, our wills—and to make us holy disciples of God.

He comes quietly into the world, without fanfare or majesty. Those who know that he has come are those who search for meaning, those who quiet their hearts from distractions, and those who set aside pride, or complacency, or cynicism, or vanity, to search earnestly for the truth, and to accept it, even when it seems impossible.
Christ will come again into the world.

At the end of this world, Christ will come in glory, to bring the final triumph of good over evil, to reveal our hearts, and to judge every human being according to his justice, and his mercy. Christ will come so that the living and the dead who have responded to God’s grace will enter eternal life with the Trinity. Christ will come again after great trials and persecutions, but we will not know the hour, we will not know the time or the place.

Those who will be prepared for his glorious coming are those who have been waiting and watching for Christ; those who have been seeking to live in truth, and placing their trust in almighty God. Those who will be prepared are those who have taken up the call to discipleship, who have chosen goodness, who have not put off his call. God’s call to holiness is immediate, his call to follow him is urgent. We do not know when he will return. But we know that he will, indeed, return at some point and we need to be prepared.

The coming of Christ—yesterday, today, and tomorrow—is what Advent is about. Advent is a moment in which the Church calls us to remember that Christ has come, and is coming now, and will come again. Advent is a reminder to repent, to prepare our hearts, and to search for the coming of Jesus Christ.

Blessed John Henry Newman wrote about those who are preparing for Christ’s coming. “They watch for Christ,” he wrote, “who have a sensitive, eager, apprehensive mind, who are awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in seeking and honoring Him, who look out for Him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if they found that he was coming at once ... This then is to watch: to be detached from what is present, and to live in the thought of Christ as He came once, and as He will come again; to desire His second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of His first.”

Newman’s reminder is a blueprint for our call this Advent. We should open our minds, by honoring and seeking God. We should repent of our sin. We should do our best to detach ourselves from distractions and comforts, and ask for the Lord’s help. We should read Scripture, and spend time in prayer and worship, so that we will remember that he has come, know that he is with us now, and will have a strong desire in our hearts for his coming again.

Jesus Christ is coming into this world. Let us watch for him: awake, eager, humble, and prepared.

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