Advent a celebration of death and life
Death and Life. Advent is a celebration of both of these realities. The first half of Advent calls to our mind the second coming of Jesus Christ, while the second half of Advent prepares us for the celebration of his first coming at Christmas. Allow me to say a few things about both of these aspects of this Advent season.
In the Creed every Sunday, we profess: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.” We believe that God will send his Son once again to earth, this time to bring our earthly existence to an end. We do not know how this is to take place, only that it will take place. And the primary purposes of this coming at the end of time will be to judge and to bring about the eternal reign of God.
Most likely, most or all of us will be part of the dead at that point. Our souls will be in heaven or hell or in purgatory, because we will have undergone a personal judgment at our death. For the glorious final judgment to take place, all our bodies will be raised and transformed, just like Jesus’ body was at his resurrection from the dead. Those who are living at the time also will be transformed. Then “the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare” (Catechism, #1039) as the justice and mercy of God are made fully and perfectly manifest to all. It is for this that we have lived. It is for this that we have searched. It is for this that we have tried to live like Christ, so that he will find in us a true sister or a true brother.
Many of us forget that we will be judged, that we will be held accountable for our behavior and rewarded for our living in God’s grace. We picture God as so benign that he does not care how we have lived. Yet, as John of the Cross states: “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.” Now all of us pray that God’s judgment will be more merciful than any kind of judging we might make, but that perfect mix of mercy and justice is a mystery to be revealed to us.
It is a very good thing to ponder the last things, not in some morbid way, but as a reminder to us that we need to make each day count. We know not the day nor the hour. Our lives really matter.
One sure sign that they matter is that the Son of God took on our flesh and lived among us. That, of course, is what we celebrate in the second half of Advent. God is not far away – not some distant, uncaring power. Rather, God is close to us, Emmanuel, God is with us. Our life and our death are wrapped up in Christ’s life and Christ’s death.
As we go to our churches during this coming Christmas season and gaze upon the crib scene and see that weak child, let us recall the incredible love God has for us, to send his Son to live with us and to live and die for us. We are really important to God. Yet, God only invites us and offers us his grace. Then he takes very seriously the decisions we make. That is real love and mercy.
A Blessed Advent and Christmas to you all.