Mathew 28:20
John 14:23
Two different sayings of Jesus this weekend that are not from our readings.
From Matthew: “…behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
And from John: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.”
I want to focus on these two verses because I want to return to a topic I’ve spoken on in years past: what is the purpose of Advent? The answer to that is that the church is trying to get us to look the comings of Christ. The first part of Advent has us looking forward to the time of Christ’s return at the end of time. That is the key point in the readings and prayers in the first two weeks of Advent.
As we go into the third and fourth weeks, we begin to reflect more about the coming of Jesus as a baby at Christmas. Both are part of this season.
We remember that He came, we remember his promise to come again.
What has prompted me to return to this topic is something I read by St. Bernard this week. He said that there are THREE comings of Jesus. The first already happened when Jesus came, lived, died, and rose from The dead for the forgiveness of our sins. St. Bernard says that the second coming of Jesus happens every time we receive Communion. Jesus comes to us in a unique way that is both physical and spiritual. For St. Bernard, the third coming of Jesus is his final coming at the end of time.
Now, part of me wants to disagree with St. Bernard, but I understand what he’s saying. Jesus does come to us in a unique way every time we receive Communion. But rather than it being a separate, distinct coming of Christ, I think it is a continuation of his first coming. Look at the verses that I quoted at the start of today’s homily: “I am with you always until the end of time” supports Communion being a continuation of His First Coming. However, in support of St. Bernard, Jesus says “we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”, making it sound like it is something different.
Does it make a difference? I am not sure it does, since much of tradition speaks of only the two comings of Jesus. But the coming of Jesus in the Eucharist is the most powerful expression of His Presence to us that we can hold onto.
Jesus established the Eucharist on the night before He died saying clearly “this is my body… this is my blood.” We eat Jesus! I cannot overemphasize this, especially in light of the reports that some, if not most, Catholics don’t understand or believe this! We… eat… Jesus!
He gave himself to us at the Last Supper, on the night before He died. To me, that says that the Eucharist is a continuation of Jesus’ First Coming, when He came in the flesh and said He would give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink, that is out of the sixth chapter of John.
Or if it is a second and distinct coming of Christ, we should have within us a yearning for this coming of Christ within us. We should have a yearning to know His Presence in our souls.
On another point, His promise was that He would be with us until the end of the age. That does not mean that when “the end of the age” comes that He will no longer be with us. It means that He will never abandon us. If we ask for His Presence He will always be there with us.
Now, in this season of Advent, we need to take up the cry of the church that appears as one of the last lines of the Bible. It comes from the book of Revelation: “Come, Lord Jesus!” “Come, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be re-created, and you shall renew the face of the earth!”
This prayer that comes from Pentecost rang out in the early church. It rings out today as well, calling for not just the conversion of hearts, but a renewal of the understanding of Jesus’ Presence to us. He comes to us in humility, as He did when He came at Christmas. He comes in humility now in the form, the taste, and the look of bread and wine that He MIRACULOUSLY changes into his own Body and Blood.
This is the promise that He made at the end of Matthew’s gospel: “I will be with you always, until The end of The age.” These are the last words of that gospel! How much do we cherish this Presence of Jesus?
I know there are some of you who, because of your circumstances in life, cannot receive the Body and Blood of Jesus right now. But your faithfulness to come into His Presence in this church reveals your longing for that Presence in in your life.
When you walk into this church, or any Catholic Church, do you sense His Presence? He comes, He waits, He longs for our presence, whether we are receiving him or adoring him. He comes… He waits… He longs…
If we love him, He will come to us, along with the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Here, in this Advent, we are called to a season of penance, but a penance that is filled with joy and anticipation of the return of the Triumphant King. That is why we still sing alleluia before the Gospels now. During Lent, we don’t sing alleluia, because THAT season of penance is meant to remind us of what sin, our sin, cost God: Jesus’ death on the cross.
Now, we rejoice, even as we are repentant of our sins, because God is with us. Whether we see it as St. Bernard did, that in The Eucharist we see a separate, second coming of Jesus, or if it is a continuation of his First Coming, and a declaration that He is with us and always has been, doesn’t matter.
What matters is our rejoicing that He is with us, leading us, because of His love, to the time when we will see Him face-to-face at His Final Coming with all the angels of heaven. One last thing: do you remember what Emmanuel means? God with us.
Have a blessed and holy Advent, filled with the desire for the Presence both of the Triumphant King, and the Christ Child of Christmas. Amen.