The Coming of the Lord
by Rev. Robert J. Wagner
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.
Jesus said to his disciples: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky. "Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
The sun and moon go dark. Stars fall from the sky. The powers of heaven quake.
Jesus tells us that these signs will accompany His second coming. His description of the upheaval of the natural world reminds us of the events that were recorded at the moment Jesus died on Calvary: “The earth quaked, rocks were split, tombs were opened and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (cf. Mt 27:51-52). In these two moments, the Crucifixion and the second coming, God’s action disrupts our world. The grandeur of the world — the sun, the stars, the clouds, the earth — is rendered useless by the sanctifying work of Jesus.
Understandably, we are overcome with fear and awe when confronted with this imagery. Our desire is that the natural world remain calm and ordered, for that is when we are safe. But when we imagine the sun and moon darkened, stars falling from the sky and the heavens quaking, we understand just how powerful Our Lord is. He is the One through Whom all things came to be (cf. Jn 1:3), and everything, from the grain of sand on the seashore to the largest planet in the universe, is subject to Him.
The imagery that accompanies the second coming shocks us out of our everyday thoughts and actions, which is needed, for too easily we fall into stagnancy when thinking about meeting the Lord. Jesus spoke of His second coming two thousand years ago, and at this point in time, we have convinced ourselves that the Triumphant Lord is not going to appear to us any time soon. We take tomorrow for granted, despite the warning that He will arrive at an hour that no one knows.
How would life be different if we knew the Master was coming at any moment? No doubt, we would strive to be prepared to meet Him at all times. This is the attitude of the disciple of Christ, who is warned time and time again by Jesus not to slumber, but to be awake; the Bridegroom is coming.
This does not mean that we stop planning for tomorrow. We must continue to be active and organized Christians. What it does mean, however, is that we place an emphasis on the quality of our spiritual lives, that is, our relationship with the Triune God. For those of us who have allowed ourselves to fall into grave sin, we must seek God’s mercy in the sacrament of penance, and then take efforts to avoid that temptation, whatever it is, in the future. In this way, we remain prepared.
In addition to confession, we must develop the practice of a daily examination of conscience, to set aside time each day to review how we have fared in our efforts to live as Christians. It is through this examination that we come to know the ways the evil one tempts us, and once we know them, we can pray for strength in those moments of temptation and plan our means of avoiding them. In this way, we prepare ourselves by maintaining souls that are clean and ready to receive Jesus.
Another means of preparing ourselves is prayer, for it is in prayer that we unite ourselves to Our Triune God, speaking to Him as well as listening to Him. It is in prayer that we grow to know and love God and find peace in His divine will for us. Without prayer, we are more prone to frustration when God’s will is not aligned with ours. With prayer, we can more easily accept the triumphs and crosses of each day knowing they are part of the plan God has designed for us. This prayerful and peaceful approach allows us to remain prepared to encounter Jesus.
While the imagery of the second coming may seem frightening, we must remember that God is love. His desire is to take us to Himself when He comes in His glory. Thus, in this life, He offers us His grace and His forgiveness that we may be ready for greet Him, whenever He comes.
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