Come Lord Jesus!

Michelangelo, Fresco of the Last Judgement

The Catholic faith has always looked forward with confident hope to Jesus coming again in glory, when he will judge the world and put an end to history.  Because we do not know the day or the hour of his arrival, we are counseled always to be vigilant (Matthew 24:30-44).  However, the Church meditates upon this in a special way during the liturgical season of Advent, which is not solely focused on the holy events of the past but is also a “remembrance of the future,” the memory of a promise that gives hope and sheds light on the path we are to take in our lives (cf. Lumen Fidei, 9).

Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is and who was and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8).  So as we prepare our hearts for Christmas – recalling the Lord’s first coming in the fullness of time 2,000 years ago, his birth at Bethlehem and his life as Emmanuel, God-with-us – we also look forward to his second coming as the King of Glory at the end of time, to everlasting life in the resurrection of the dead and the definitive establishment of his kingdom, which will have no end as all things come to completion in Christ.

With vivid imagery to help us grasp such a mystery, this is how scripture describes the passing of the present world:  Jesus, the Lamb of God, will open the book of life and judge each person, living and dead, according to his or her conduct.  To those who thirsted for him, loving him and others, he will give to drink from the spring of life-giving water, but those who by their thoughts and deeds were strangers to him, those who loved only themselves, they will have brought upon themselves a “second death” (Revelation 20:11 et seq.; Matthew 25:31 et seq.).

This awareness that the Risen Lord will come again is for us a joyful hope in our own resurrection, so it cannot be cause for anxiety.  But it is a wake-up call to prepare, to be worthy of the promises of Christ.  We do this by throwing off “the works of darkness” and putting on “the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-14), welcoming in our hearts the Lord who wishes to transform our lives into a reflection of his own.  By anticipating his second coming in connection with his first during Advent, it necessarily stirs within us expectations of a better life and a better world.  We are reminded in this season that our hope reflects the longings of a fallen human nature for wholeness and restoration and the yearnings of God’s chosen people for a Messiah who would make all things right.

“Behold, I am coming soon,” says Jesus, “God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 22:12, 21:3-4).

This promise of the fullness of eternal life is our everlasting hope as we journey here on earth and to it we can only say, as do the final words of scripture, “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all” (Revelation 22:20-21).