By TJ Simpson, Director of Evangelization
We believe in the three comings of Jesus: Birth, Present Moment, and the End of Time.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the first coming of Jesus in 1st century Palestine. The infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke tell us the story. We know this story, but hear it less often than we think. Consider spending some time with these stories outside of the Liturgy this Christmas.
At the heart of Christian teaching is the Encounter. Born again Christians can often tell you the date if not also the time when they were saved. We, and many of them, understand that this is not a one and done. The disciples followed Jesus after meeting him once, but it took three years of getting to know him (and his Passion) for them to truly believe and commit to his teaching. We must constantly seek God. For it is by his saving action that we are saved.
This action is presently available to you. As you read this sentence, wherever you are, God is waiting. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:15)
The simplest way you can encounter Jesus is through praying with the scriptures. Learning to meditate on scripture and apply it to your life can be a game changer for your experience at Mass and an overflowing well of grace in your daily life.
Our meditation need not only be when we read scripture. The author Jean-Pierre de Caussade captures this idea well in several of his writings, the most famous being The Joy of Full Surrender (also printed as The Sacrament of the Present Moment.) God is constantly speaking to us in the events of our life. Consider again our first article’s point on prayer- it is scandalously underutilized by Christians.
End of Time
The end of days incites both joy and terror. Icons of Christ Pantocrator (such as in the dome at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem) depict a stern Jesus in judgement. Take a look at such an icon, listen to The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash, and read Revelation and you will get the idea of the terror.
Jesus is coming. He last came in a time of strife, when no one was quite ready. The Jewish people were torn between different Priestly, Kingly, and Secular authorities. They were not ready for Jesus and his message. Is the Christmas joy you experience a genuine gift of the Spirit that allows Christ to embrace your brokenness? Does it bring you to look forward to Christ’s coming with eager expectation? Or, is our joy a flimsy shield that covers shame and loneliness?
We look forward in joy for the things to come. This is a major theme of Advent that is lost in the bustle to get presents under the tree and feed our relatives. The reason we have given you these principles is not to burden you, but to give you joy. Most of us don’t like going to confession and doing our examinations of conscience, but we experience that joy of the Holy Spirit when our sins are forgiven.
Christian perfection is not perfect, but as vulnerable as the child Jesus. I needed Fr. Belt’s mission talk this year. I needed to remember that the joy of the things to come is greater than my present worries and fears in a time of great public doubt and anxiousness. My hope for you this Christmas is that Mary will intercede and help you to let Christ be born anew in your life. There is a lot of work to do at Midtown Catholic as we seek to renew our Parish life. Everything will be for naught if a personal relationship with Jesus is not our first and last step.
The Joy of Full Surrender: The Joy of Full Surrender (paracletepress.com)
Christ Pantocrater: christ-pantokrator-jerusalem.png (2000×2000) (wordpress.com)
Johnny Cash: The Man Comes Around – YouTube