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Waiting for Christ’s Return

November 30, 2014 click on left end of black bar to play-pause

November 30, 2014
1 Corinthians1:3-9; Mark 13: 33-37
Fr. George Smiga

 

We all know that at Christmas we celebrate Christ’s coming into this world. But if you stop and think for a minute, you will remember that in the Christian story, Christ does not come once but twice. During our Eucharistic prayer we sing, “We proclaim your death O Lord, and profess your resurrection, until you come again.” Why does Jesus need to come again? Why isn’t one coming enough?

To answer this question we have to remember what Jesus’ mission is. His mission is to save the world. And the minute we remember this, it becomes clear that there is more saving that needs to be done. The world in which we live is still characterized by many evils that are opposed to God’s will. The news that comes to us every day is often news of violence and greed, of prejudice and hatred, of poverty and death. It is clear that the world in which we live is not the world as God wants it to be. So this is why Jesus must come again. He must finish the work that he began on the cross. He must destroy every evil which is opposed to God’s will.

Now the first followers of Jesus understood the importance of his second coming. They looked forward to it with eager anticipation. You can sense that eagerness in today’s readings. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are to stand firm as they wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is not the revelation at Bethlehem but the revelation on the last day. Mark tells his readers to watch because we do not know the hour at which the owner of the house will be returning. Both Paul and Mark believed that Jesus would return soon, in their lifetime. They were anxious for Jesus’ return, because only at his second coming would the salvation of the world be complete.

But there is a twist in the Christian story. Although we believe that Jesus must return, we have been waiting for two thousand years and he has not yet arrived. What are we to make of this delay? Well, some would say that the plan has changed, that Jesus is not going to return, that God no longer intends to destroy the evil of this world. But there is another more positive interpretation which I think we should adopt. Jesus has delayed his coming to provide time for us to be part of his mission. Jesus is waiting to return so that we can join with him in destroying the evil of this world.

When we understand this as God’s intention, it can change the way that we live. As followers of Jesus we must see our moral choices as more than isolated acts of goodness. We should see the things that we do as contributions to God’s plan of saving the world. So when we forgive an enemy, we are doing more than simply following the command of Christ. Through that forgiveness we are hastening Christ’s return in glory. When we feed the hungry or welcome the stranger, we are doing more than what is right. We are offering those acts to Christ in order to bring about the kingdom of God. When we oppose hatred, violence, and injustice, we are doing more than being responsible people. We are collaborating with Christ to bring about God’s victory in this world.

So on this first Sunday of Advent, the Church asks us not to reflect on Jesus’ first coming but his second. This season asks us to believe again that God intends to destroy all that is evil in this world and that a day will come when Christ arrives to conquer everything that is opposed to God’s will. We must not only watch for that day, we must work to hasten it. We must believe that every act of charity or justice we do is our collaboration with God’s plan. God has not forgotten us. Jesus is delaying his coming to give us time to join with him in the salvation of the world.

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