Advent began this year with a beautiful reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (2: 1-5). Isaiah presents us with a picture of the world at peace, writing: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”
This is a vision that all people of good will share. It is a hope that the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, came to fulfill. Jesus is God in the flesh who came to enlighten us with wisdom, to show us the way that leads to peace, and to empower us to follow that way.
Advent—a word that means “coming”—is our preparation time for the celebration of the fact that the Son of God came to live among us, to share our suffering and death so that we could one day share his risen life. That was his first coming.
But we are reminded this time of year that there will be a second coming. Jesus will come again to establish his kingdom of peace once and for all. Sin and death will be destroyed forever.
Between these two “comings” there are others. Today Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist. He is the Bread of Life who feeds our hunger for true love. As the Jewish people longed with deep hunger for the Messiah to come and save them, so we hunger for Christ. This hunger can help us “stay awake” for Christ’s second coming. And if that second coming does not occur in our lifetime, then our hunger for Christ can help us “be prepared” for the day that he will come for us when our life on earth will end.
The coming of Jesus in the Eucharist also prepares us for another “coming” between the first and second. St. Teresa of Kolkata understood this “coming” well. She once said that when we look at a crucifix we see how much Jesus loved us and when we look at a tabernacle or monstrance we see how much Jesus loves us now. Time spent in Eucharistic adoration helps us see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Time spent seeing Jesus under the appearance of bread and wine helps us recognize him in the “distressing disguise” of the person in front of us who needs our attention, care, and love. Jesus comes to us every day in one another.
In his Apostolic Letter for the close of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote: “We are called to promote a culture of mercy based on the rediscovery of the encounter with others.” This, he said, “can set in motion a real cultural revolution, beginning with simple gestures capable of reaching body and spirit, people’s very lives.”
This is the only revolution that will change the world and make Isaiah’s vision of peace attainable. Political changes will never change the world. Only a revolution of the heart will bring about true change. It begins one heart at a time. It begins with your heart and mine.
Unfortunately Advent is such a busy time that there is a tendency to forget the various “comings” of Jesus—the real meaning of Christmas, the second coming of Jesus at the end of the world or the end of our life, the way Jesus comes to us in the Eucharist, and the way he comes to us in one another, especially those most forgotten or in need. It’s a good idea to slow down by spending some time in Eucharistic adoration this Advent. This will help us to be alert to meet Christ when and where he comes to us.