St. Bernard preaches on the Three Comings of Christ.Let us examine that second one
We all are familiar with the first coming of Jesus at the Nativity, fulfilling prophecies; Zechariah: “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a savior is he, meek, and humble riding on an ass.” (Zec 9: 9) Isaiah: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. (Is. 7: 14).
Through events during persecutions and dismay God promised an end of so much plunder on his people and sent a savior, one who would rule with compassion and love. “And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” (Jn. 1: 14). In this first coming, Christ was our redemption.
In his final coming, John the Baptist speaking the words of Isaiah the Prophet, “The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Lk. 3: 5-6) (cf Is. 43: 19 ff). The salvation promised has now reached its climax and he will be seen in glory and majesty. Bernard said; “In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced.”
Bernard’s words continue, “The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power.”
Presently, we are living in the middle coming of Christ! From the first when he is seen as the promise of the ages, to the final opening of a world freed from eternal death. Just what opportunity has this present period offered us as we prepare for the existence within ourselves, and what impact is that going to have on each one?
Matthew’s Gospel is very clear when Jesus separated the nations as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. The most profound statement is when he tells those on his right that whenever they tended to the needs of the people they did it for him. But to those on the left he answered them when they asked when did we not attend to you and he said whenever you ignored anyone in need you neglected me. Those on the right went into the kingdom prepared for them. To those on the left into eternal punishment.
This gospel passage stands as the most prolific statement from Jesus. These actions stand as an answer to what does the middle coming really mean. Bernard again states, “In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.” He continues, “He who fears God will do good.”
Perhaps Advent, as we await the three comings of Christ, is the most opportune time to look into ourselves and consider if this second coming has become a golden opportunity for each of us make this gospel message come alive.
Fortunately, even in unfortunate circumstances, there will not be an absence of intense need for persons close to us, as well as someone down the street or across town. That middle coming has been placed upon us and remember we are all God’s children.
Those statements of St. Bernard are excerpted from the second reading from the Office of Readings, Wednesday, First week of Advent.
Ralph B. Hathaway, Advent 2020