Advent: The Coming of the Lord
In this beautiful homily for 1st Sunday of Advent, Year C, Father Hanly gives us a summary of the three Comings of the Lord.
Readings for First Sunday of Advent, Year C
- First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
- Second Reading: First Thessalonians 3:12–4:2
- Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Today is the First Sunday of Advent. Christmas is just around the corner, only four weeks away from the Coming of the Lord. In fact, though, there are really three Comings of the Lord that we talk about, and each one in its own way is important for us to understand.
The word “Advent” is a Latin word, “advenio.” What it means is “the coming”… not “he came” but “the coming.” It has a note of constancy about it… not “he has arrived,” but “he is arriving,” he is near, he’s at the door, he’s waiting for you.
The First Coming, of course, is the coming of the Child at Christmas: the coming of the Saviour, Emmanuel, God with us. And he comes as an infant, born in a humble village of Bethlehem. And this is God’s coming into history.
The First Coming of the Lord comes with God coming in weakness. He comes in the quiet of the night. He is born a helpless child, in need of men and women and others to take care of him, to watch over him, to feed him, to do all these things. Unbelievable, when you come to think of it. Mary and Joseph, a poor, poor carpenter and a teenaged girl, are called to raise a child who is God Himself.
The Second Coming: The Second Coming of the Lord is more dramatic, as we read in the Gospel. It is Jesus speaking of the end of the world as we know it.
It frightens people, but Jesus promises us: in the midst of the darkness on the edges of despair, when it seems that all is lost, and the world as we know it has been torn asunder, lightning in the skies, fire on the earth, then Jesus says to us: “On that day, lift up your heads, for your redemption, your healing, is at hand.”
Jesus will come in a cloud of glory with all the angels. The cloud, of course, is the symbol of the Presence of God. He will come to initiate the new world where love finally triumphs over hate, where people turn to each other and embrace each other in joy, for the world that God intended will finally be complete when the Son of Man comes in glory the Second Time.
And that leaves the Third Coming of the Lord, the puzzling coming of the Lord.
This is for us who wait and wonder at what we are supposed to do while we’re here on Earth. Now to celebrate the coming of the Child and then after Christmas put everything back in the boxes and hide them away until next year? Are we then to sit around and wonder and worry about what is the next move? What will happen to us in the meantime?
Not to worry. Something has already happened in the meantime.
What has happened in the meantime?
The little Child of Bethlehem, the helpless little Child of Bethlehem, grew up. And he has come to give to our lives the meaning and purpose that we ourselves we thirst for.
On the eve of his departure during the last Supper, Jesus said to his disciples: “I am going away, and you will be sad.” He was talking of his crucifixion and death.
“But I will come back again and be with you!” He was speaking now of his resurrection.
And the Risen Lord is indeed with us, our companion on our journey, just as he promised his disciples: “I will be with you all days even to the end of the world.”
And this Third Coming of the Lord is his word to stay with us, here, now and forever.
The Lord has called us to himself. He has said to each and every one of us in our hearts: “Come follow me.”
And those who answer find the real meaning of Advent and the joy of Christmas in the knowing of, in the loving of, and in the following of the Lord, Jesus, who leads us safely home.