Dear friends, we have already entered into the new liturgical year of the Church. And as usual, we have begun with the advent season, which is the time of preparation for the nativity of Christ and also His Second Coming. However, considering the terrible events happening all around the world today and the fact that they fall in line with the predictions made by Our Lord, it would be wiser for us to think more deeply this advent season about what most Christians don’t expect – the expected return of Christ.
Now what may surprise you is that 2000 years back, even the early Christians lived with the expectation that Jesus would return during their lifetime. They not only believed that He would return but they also made sure that they were well-prepared to receive Him. We find a mention of this being made in the letter written by St. Paul to the Thessalonians… All those people speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God and to wait for His Son to come from heaven... (1 Thessalonians 1: 9-10). Therefore, waiting expectantly for Jesus to come again was an integral part of the faith even at that time; and it remains so even today. We profess this belief when we recite the Apostles Creed. We recall it daily in the Holy Mass during the proclamation of faith. And during the Advent season, the prayers made during the Mass are connected more to the return of Christ as King.
Needless to say, the Holy Spirit has dictated this to the Church to ensure that the Second Coming is on the mind of every person who is a follower of Christ.
Some will say that the ‘Second Coming’ never happened and that those who hoped in it hoped in vain. Needless to say, such people think that it will never happen in their life time – not even in this present age when all the signs seem to be pointing to it so clearly. But kindly note what Jesus said to His disciples after He had finished speaking to them about the troubled times. He said, "If the owner of a house knew the time when the thief would come, you can be sure that he would stay awake and not let the thief break into his house. So then, you also must always be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him. (Matthew 24:43-44).
What Jesus meant was that we ought to wait expectantly and be prepared irrespective of whether the time of His return is at hand or not.
On another occasion, Jesus told a parable in connection to His return. (Luke 19: 11-27). A man of high rank, but hated by his own people, is about to go to a country far away to be made king, after which he plans to come back home (doubtless, the man here points to Jesus). And before leaving, the man called his ten servants and gave each of them a gold coin expecting them to earn something with it.
We know that the first servant in the parable earned ten 10 more coins, the second 5 while the third did nothing with the coin that was given to him. Now, we can draw a few conclusions from this. We can be like the first servant. 1) He believed in what his master said before leaving. 2) Unlike those who hated the man of high rank, this servant loved his master very much and he wanted him to come back as king. 3) Most importantly, he conducted his life as though his master was already a king.
Or we can be like the second servant who half-believed. Perhaps he was influenced to some extent by those who hated his master (John 15:18). He knew his master but not to the point of loving and trusting him totally. And so whatever he did, he did it half-heartedly. Many belong to this category. They love the Lord but do not know Him totally to the point of loving and trusting Him totally and waiting expectantly for Him to come as king.
Or God forbid, we could be like the third servant. The fact that he did not earn anything indicates that he did not believe at all that his master would come back as king. Next, he never came to know the true nature of his master. On the contrary, he had a totally distorted idea about him… ‘I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take what is not yours and reap what you did not plant.' (Luke 19:21).
What the third servant did not confess is that he too had developed hatred in his heart towards the master. Perhaps he was so much influenced by those who hated his master that he too began to have the same hateful feelings. He too didn’t want the master to come back as king. Needless to say, he even forgot his master and went on with life as though he never existed in the first place. This is the story of many good Christians today. St. Paul writes about them saying… There are many whose lives make them enemies of Christ's death on the cross. They are going to end up in hell, because their god is their bodily desires. They are proud of what they should be ashamed of, and they think only of things that belong to this world (Philippians 3:18, 19).
Now coming to the question of whether all those early Christians who hoped in the return of Christ hoped in vain or not and whether we too will end up hoping in vain. It is important to consider what Jesus once said to His disciples, “I assure you that there are some here who will not die until they have seen the Son of Man come as King." (Matthew 16:28). Jesus was referring to those who would love Him like the first servant did. They would see Him as King even before they die. Isn’t that what happened to the disciple John who was the closest to Jesus? David who is described as a man after God’s heart received a revelation in which he saw Jesus called to sit at the right-hand side of God as ruler. (Acts 2:34-35).
Don’t forget, David lived much before Jesus even came into the world. Undoubtedly, the early Christians who lived like the first servant also received such revelation from heaven.
Therefore, this advent season, let us make it our aim to believe that Jesus is coming from heaven. Let us love Him and conduct our lives as though He has already come as King. God will never disappoint us. By means of revelation, we will see Jesus come as King. And that will cause us to love the Master even more – and wait eagerly for Him to come again. As St. Paul wrote... We, however, are citizens of heaven, and we eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. (Philippians 3:20).