Come Lord Jesus
Come Lord Jesus, Come!
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent and soon we will celebrate Christmas day. Christmas is the celebration of the Incarnation, when the Second Person of the Divine Trinity became human to save us from our sins.
We spend, and rightly so, a great deal of time preparing for Christmas. We decorate our homes, prepare traditional foods, and buy and wrap gifts. We send cards to our loved ones, search the attic for Christmas lights, and trim our Christmas trees. We decorate our lawns, make travel plans, invite guests to our homes, prepare meals, and get up early to see what Santa brought down the chimney.
In the Liturgy of the Hours for the Advent season, the response to our intercessory prayers is, 'Come Lord Jesus'. Advent is a season of preparation = preparation for the Incarnation. As most of you know Advent is divided into two parts. The first two weeks are a time of penance – a time to confess our sins and be made right with God. The third and fourth weeks are centered on joy and hope – joy in being set free from the slavery of sin, and the hope that we will one day stand pure and righteous before our Lord – the King of Kings.
In Advent we look forward to that day when God's justice and mercy reigns. Isaiah says of that day, "the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” 1 These words, of course, describe Heaven, and who does not want Heaven, where every tear is wiped away, where there is no death, no suffering, no sorrow, and all hearts are united in love.
So, we pray, “Come Lord Jesus”, but do we want Him to come here, today, now? If we are honest with ourselves, our initial reaction may be fear. Before he turned to a life of heroic virtue, St. Augustine once said, ”Give me chastity ... but not yet.” 2 I wonder if we have a similar attitude toward Advent and the second coming of Christ. Do we pray, “Come Lord Jesus, but not yet.” Perhaps, our conscience is telling us that we are not ready. Are there sins we need to confess? Are there people we need to forgive? Have our lives been instruments of Christ's peace and love? When Jesus does return where will we stand, with the sheep or with the goats? When the hearts of all men are made known will we survive? And, what will happen to our loved ones? Will they stand on the right or on the left?
We can express the true joy of Advent, the true joy of the Incarnation, only if our souls are free from sin, and we live in the abundance of God's grace. We can only look forward in hope to the coming of the Messiah, if we and those we love, are prepared to meet Him. So, do we say, 'Come Lord Jesus' with our lips, but 'not yet' in our hearts?
John the Baptist was so filled with the love of Christ that he leaped for joy. When we pray, 'Come Lord Jesus', do our hearts leap for joy? Do we long for His presence, or does the hour of His coming fill us with fear? Are we vigilant and excited like the virgins invited to the wedding feast? Do we stand with lamps of grace flaming in our hearts?
St. Augustine also said, “The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundation." 3 The structure of our faith needs to reach heaven, so its foundation must dwell deep in our hearts. It must penetrate the core of our being. Martin Luther King often said, “Keep your eyes on the prize.” 4 The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of His Divine Will needs to be a tangible reality in our thoughts, in our prayers, and in our souls.
We often think of Heaven, and refer to Heaven as a physical place, a mystical city in the cosmos where the streets are paved with gold, and where we inherit the mansion Jesus has prepared for us.
The Catechism tells us that when we pray, "Our Father who art in heaven". “It is rightly understood to mean that God is in the hearts of the just, as in his holy temple.” 5 St. Cyril of Jerusalem said, “Heaven could also [mean] those who bear the image of the heavenly world, and in whom God dwells” 6 . Pope John Paul II adds, “The 'heaven' or 'happiness' in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit.” 7
When Jesus asked, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” 8 Joseph of Arimathea replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’2 Jesus replied, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 9
We, who are gathered in this Holy Temple instituted by God, dwell in Heaven in the hear and now. If Christ reigns in our hearts, Heaven and the Kingdom of God are within us. Heaven is a not a place but a state of being. As Pope John Paul II said, “Heaven is a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity”.
While we do not share fully the transcendent gifts of the resurrected, nor do we dwell in the immediate vision of God that is to come, Heaven does surround us. Heaven is within us. It exists in our faith. It exists in living in God's Divine Will. It exists in the desire of our hearts. Jesus told St. Faustina, “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: Jesus, I trust in You”. 10 Heaven is here, within us, in the strength of our faith according to the degree of our trust. And, heaven is yet to come. St. Paul said, “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard ... what God has prepared for those who love him,” 11 So for His disciples there is no cause for fear.
Soon, our children's hearts will be full of joy and hope waiting for Santa. Our own hearts will be full of excitement as we welcome family and friends, and exchange gifts. We will probably eat too much turkey, have too many slices of pie, watch too much television, and fall asleep on the couch.
Sharing our love for family and friends is certainly a great way to celebrate Christmas, but too often we lose our spiritual focus in the season's activities. Isn't it time to make Christ, to make Heaven and the Kingdom of God, the center of the season, not by campaigns, or slogans, or advertisements, but by how we prepare in Advent, how we celebrate the Incarnation, and how we give thanks, honor, and praise to our Redeemer?
Isn't it time that we realize that Heaven is within us? Isn't it time that we live in joy, confident that we are forgiven, confident that our souls are free? Isn't it time that we face every day, every moment, no matter how difficult, with hearts full of hope and joy, in eager anticipation of the arrival of our Savior? Isn't it time that we pray, “Come Lord Jesus” with our lips and in our hearts?
Come, Lord Jesus, Come!