The Hebrew people waited for centuries for the Messiah to come. Their constant prayer was, “Maranatha,” which in Aramaic means, “Come, O Lord.” They waited, not necessarily patiently, but anxiously, for the fulfillment of the promises made to David and confirmed through the prophets. Even when it appeared that hope was lost, the prophets taught them that the promise would still be fulfilled and that they should cling to that promise, and hold on to hope. In Jesus, this promise, and this hope, was fulfilled.
The early Church also prayed, “Maranatha! Come, O Lord.” They, who had seen the Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ, looked forward to, waited for and hoped for, and prayed for, the Second Coming of Christ. We have waited for 2,000 years, and the promise of Jesus is still valid. He will come again. And when he does, he will bring forth the Kingdom in its fullness. We celebrated that reality two weeks ago on the Feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Church year.
In the season of Advent, we recall the hope and prayer of the Hebrew people waiting for the Messiah, and we stir up our own hope for the return of Christ at the end of time. We are not just preparing for Christmas. We are preparing for Christ. That is something very different. Our Advent cry is also, “Maranatha! Come, O Lord.”
Will you and I be around to welcome Christ when he comes on the clouds, in his glory, as the trumpet of Gabriel sounds its mighty blast? Who knows? It could come today, or tomorrow, or it could be hundreds or thousands of more years in coming. Even if we are not around at the end of all time, we will be around for the end of our own time. Each of us will come to the end of our lives, and we will meet Jesus. We may be a bit slower to pray, “Maranatha! Come, O Lord!” in that regard.
So, in Advent, we prepare for three comings of Christ—his First Coming in powerlessness and silence in Bethlehem, and his Second Coming at the end of time, and our own personal experience of the return of Jesus, at our death. How do we prepare?
If Pope Francis made an announcement that Jesus had appeared to him and that he had announced that he would return in his glory this Christmas Day, how would we react? How would we get ready? I don’t think we would spend a lot of time writing Christmas cards, baking cookies, or stringing lights.
First of all, I think that we would each want to make sure that we were right with God, that we had made a good Confession, and had received absolution so that we would be spiritually ready to meet Christ when he returned. This is an important part of our Advent season. It is a penitential season in which we are strongly encouraged to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We have confessions at 11 am on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and during Advent, I am hearing confessions after the 9:30 am and 11:30 am Masses on Sunday. You can also call and schedule a confession at other times. If you don’t want to go to confession here, check with other parishes near you. Go to confession!!!!
Secondly, if Christ was returning on Christmas Day, we would spend more time in prayer, turning to Christ, seeking his strength, his courage, his mercy, his compassion, his love. Perhaps we would double down on our prayer for our children and other loved ones, who have drifted away from the faith, asking Jesus to send his Holy Spirit to lead them back before the end. We would pray for them to the Blessed Mother. Many of us who do not pray the rosary regularly would begin to do so. Let us recommit our lives to prayer during this season of Advent.
Thirdly, there may be some unfinished business in our relationships with others. Perhaps there are people who we need to forgive. Jesus has warned us that if we refuse to forgive others, neither will we be forgiven. Do we want Jesus to return while we are clinging to unforgiveness, resentment, and bitterness? Is there anyone whom we need to ask for forgiveness, someone we have hurt or wronged in some way, whom we have not reconciled with? Are there people we need to tell that we love them, that we are appreciative of all that they have done for us, that we admire and respect them, and look up to them?
It certainly is alright to decorate our houses, buy gifts, bake and cook, and sing Christmas songs during this Advent. But let us make sure that we do not miss the more essential things that we can do to prepare for Christ’s return.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
-Fr. Mike Comer