Behold, He Comes!

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By Vinny Flynn

I never really "got" Advent. In the readings at Mass there was a strong focus on the "comings" of Christ, looking back at the historical period of waiting for the promised Messiah (the First Coming); and looking ahead in expectation of His return in glory (the Second Coming). I understood it on some level, but something always seemed missing, and I couldn't really enter into this season in the same way I could with Christmas or Lent. 

Then I finally became aware of what was bothering me, an unspoken question. Yes, I believe that Christ came as Lord and Savior at that first, wonderful moment in history; and yes, I believe that, at some point in the future, He will come again. But what about the rest of the time? What about all the time "in between" those two comings? What does Advent mean for me right now?

As we recite or sing Hosanna at each Mass, we proclaim, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Not "he who came" ... Not "he who will come" ... but "he who comes." Christ is the God of beginnings that never end. His First Coming was not a single event in history that happened once and is now over. It was the forever entry of "Emmanuel" — God with us. His Second Coming will be His final reappearance in the fullness of His glory, not the return of someone who has left us alone until then. He is forever "Emmanuel": God with us. He's here right now, wanting to come more completely into your life and mine, to renew us, heal us, fill us with joy, and prepare us for union with Him at that final coming.

"And behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. ... Behold I make all things new" (Mt 28:20; Rev 21:5). 

To Pope Francis, Advent is about Christ's visit to us, not in two comings, but in three: 

The first visit — we all know — occurred with the Incarnation, Jesus' birth in the cave of Bethlehem; the second takes place in the present: the Lord visits us constantly, each day, walking alongside us and being a consoling presence; in the end, there will be the third, the last visit, which we proclaim each time that we recite the Creed: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead" (Angelus, Nov. 27, 2016).

Saint Pope John Paul II emphasized that, in order to prepare ourselves to welcome Christ in His final coming, "we must learn to recognize him as present in the events of daily life. Therefore, Advent ... directs us decisively toward him who already came, who will come, and who comes continuously" (General Audience, Dec. 18, 2002).

If you'll pardon the pun, the problem with Advent for many of us is that we're waiting for presents under the tree at Christmas instead of celebrating the presence of Christ at each moment of our lives.

For me, the lyrics of a popular song reflect a basic misunderstanding of our relationship with God: It announces that "God is watching us from a distance." But, in reality, God is loving us from a nearness. As St. John of the Cross explains, He is always "pressing in," always drawing closer, always seeking spaces within us that He can fill. 

One of the things I love most about the well-known Image of Divine Mercy is that it shows us endless mercy in motion. Christ is not standing still; He's walking toward us, with His right hand endlessly raised in blessing, His left endlessly inviting us into His Heart, and the fountain of mercy endlessly pouring out upon us. He wants to come as close to you as you allow, but He won't force it. He's waiting for something: "Jesus, I trust in You."

The First Coming, the Incarnation, was preceded by a fiat. The Father, through His messenger angel, waited for Mary's yes — a full, free yes of complete trust, complete abandonment to the will of God, complete openness to the living presence of Christ within her.

He's waiting for my yes, too, and for yours. The reality of Advent is that Christ is coming — now, and at every moment — knocking at the door of your heart, asking you to open it more completely, so that He can enter in more fully, sharing His life with you. "I have come that you might have life and have it to the full" (Jn 10:10). 

There is never an instant when God is not loving you, not moving toward you, not calling and inviting you to respond. Are you aware, moment to moment, of His coming closer? 

God forgive me for all the times I have missed Your coming, failed to see You in every event, to recognize You in the people around me, to respond to You with trust, to invite You to be with me in everything I do, to celebrate with joy Your presence in my life. God forgive me that I have not yet said a full yes to You.

That to me is what Advent is all about: saying a fuller yes to Christ's presence in our lives, learning to be present to the one who is always present to us.

As the Lord said, "When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart ..." (Jer 29:13).

​Former editor of the Marian Helper, Vinny Flynn is a popular speaker and best-selling author of 7 Secrets of Divine Mercy, 21 Ways to Worship, and Mercy's Gaze.

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