Being Prepared for the Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Church lifts up the Advent season leading up to Christmas as a time of anticipation and waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus. We look forward to celebrating his birth in Bethlehem, and we also meditate on the Parousia, the definitive second coming of Christ in glory when all will come to triumphant completion. Longing for this in confident hope, the Church prays, “Marana tha (our Lord come)” and “thy kingdom come.”
In this spirit of eager anticipation, we want to be prepared for the Lord’s arrival. We want to be ready and worthy of the promises of Christ for when we appear before the King of Glory and give an account of ourselves. In the words of the second reading for the first Sunday of this holy season, Advent is meant to be a wake-up call, a summons to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12), it is a time to turn ourselves in the right direction and clean out the dirt and grime in our lives.
As we make our way in the human condition, being prepared can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. For example, we can easily get caught up in worldly concerns or put off for tomorrow what we should do today, thinking we will have time later.
However, we do not know the day and the hour when the Lord will come again, so we would be wise to be vigilant and always ready. “Stay awake,” said Jesus, “you must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come” (Matthew 24:42, 44).
It can sometimes be difficult to live as “children of light” even when we are prudent and actively desire and try to do good and avoid evil. Saint Paul described how he struggled and at times did not do the good he wanted, but the wrong he did not want to do (Romans 7:18-19). This battle to overcome sin is compounded with what is perhaps a greater challenge in even discerning right and wrong.
As we read in the opening pages of scripture, our human parents were led astray from good into sin by the “father of lies” (Genesis 3:1-6). Since then, it has been the scourge of humanity that people have all too often fallen prey to false ideas and false teachers.
Aware of this sad history, Saint Paul expressed his concern that “just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be led astray from your simple and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). He and the other Apostles, like the Lord before them, frequently warned people of the grave danger of being seduced by strange teachings and deceptive empty arguments (e.g. Hebrews 13:9; Ephesians 5:6).
“See that no one deceives you,” Jesus said when speaking of his second coming (Matthew 24:4). “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
The Apostles Peter and John similarly cautioned people to be on guard against false teachers who introduce destructive ideas and fabrications which revile the way of truth (2 Peter 2:1-22; 1 John 4:1). Among his final instructions near the end of his life, Saint Paul said, “the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
In our day, how many people have been tossed about and carried away by the waves of aggressive secularism and its ally relativism (cf. Ephesians 4:14)? The challenge of the New Evangelization is to confront and counter these ideas with a living witness to the truth and love of the Gospel. This is also the challenge of the Advent season in which we prepare for the coming of Christ who is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
To be vigilant in Advent and in our lives the rest of the year means an active waiting for the Lord. Being ready for Jesus our King and Savior means paying attention to what is going on in the world around us and persevering in faith to the end (Matthew 24:13; Romans 2:7; James 1:12). It means welcoming in our hearts the Lord who wishes to transform our lives into a reflection of his own and living out our Gospel mission of loving him and one another.
The awareness that Christ will come again is for us a joyful hope of that new creation when he ends all sorrow and pain, and brings his people to the fulfillment of all their hopes and dreams. Looking forward to that day, our hearts cry out, “Come Lord Jesus.”