In the previous article, we reflected on two of the three comings of Christ–He came in history and He will come in majesty. Now let’s reflect on the coming of Christ in mystery. It is Christ who comes to us daily. Jesus is reborn in our lives every single day in a myriad of ways.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2023
Let me share with you an incident from my life that maybe will help us appreciate this coming of Christ in mystery. A couple of years ago I got a Christmas card with a letter inside that really moved me. It was from a young fellow that I had really gotten to know well in one of the parishes where I had been assigned. He was, at that time, in his early years of college, and he used to often come by to visit me in the rectory. I was so impressed with his thirst for religion, his hunger for faith, and his desire to just find the Lord and discover what the Lord was asking him to do. He was a man on a real religious odyssey.
I left the parish, was reassigned to another place, and lost contact with him. So some years later, was I ever happy when I got this Christmas card from him because it allowed me to rekindle our friendship. In the letter inside his Christmas card to me, he wrote:
Dear Fr. Tim,
I know it’s been years since I’ve caught up with you, but let me tell you what’s happened. Not too long after you left the parish I went out to California. I heard there was a Carthusian monastery there, one of the strictest orders of monks, and I thought, “I’m going to go there because that is really going to quench my thirst for religion, faith, and for God.”
Well, I spent a couple of months there and it didn’t work. The Carthusians recommended that maybe I ought to go with the Jesuits and make a 30-day retreat. So I did that. That helped, but it really didn’t quench my thirst. I didn’t think so, anyway.
Then I got into an intense spiritual direction; it helped a little but I was still restless. Then I started to dabble in Eastern mystical religions; I thought this was the be-all and end-all, and that this was going to satisfy my religious hunger. I got so involved that I ended up actually going to Tibet and spending some time at a shrine, with other people who were into Eastern mystical religions, as an attempt to find and discover God’s will. But after a while, that didn’t seem to help either. So then what I did was, I went back to California.
Father, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that then I really got into promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. It was just all a mess. So finally I came to my senses and I hitchhiked home. Was I ever so scared when I walked up the sidewalk, wondering, you know? I hadn’t seen Mom and Dad for years. I hadn’t written them. They didn’t know where I was. I knocked on the door. Dad comes to the door. He looks at me. He says my name. He starts crying. He gives me a big hug. Mom runs out of the kitchen. She sees me. She starts crying. She gives me a big hug. My sister–I didn’t even know she was married–she’s there with my little nephew that I didn’t even know I had. I’m so happy to be home.
We go sit at the table. Mom has made a great meal, probably the best I’ve eaten in two or three years. We’re sitting there talking, conversing. I’m at home. I’m feeling at peace.
After supper, I walked down the block to the parish church where I used to meet you–remember, Father? I knelt down in church and I started to pray. I looked up and I saw the sanctuary lamp and I knew that Our Lord is present in the tabernacle. I heard the door open in the back and I looked and it was Monsignor, the pastor that I grew up with. He greeted me. I said to him, “Monsignor, would you mind hearing my confession?”
I go to confession, I make a thanksgiving, and then it dawns on me while I’m saying my prayers there in the parish church: “Lord, I’ve been searching all over the world for You, and You’ve been here the whole time. I’ve been looking for You in every exotic, faraway place in the whole world, and here You are, right at home. You’ve been here all the time, Lord, coming to me, and I didn’t recognize You.
Christ Is Reborn
Now, what I propose to you is that–for this young man, my friend–that was the coming of Christ in mystery. That day–back home in his home parish, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament after confessing his sins to the pastor–was Christmas Day for him! Christ was reborn in his heart.
You know that we believe that Christ comes to us daily. Jesus is reborn in our lives every single day in a myriad of ways if we recognize Him with the eyes of faith.
You also know the great tragedy of that first Christmas. The Messiah’s birth went largely unnoticed. Nobody recognized Him. The world missed Him. The world passed Him by. The world ignored Him, so much so that He was actually born in a manger, in a stable. That’s not just a tragedy in history. That tragedy continues now because Christ comes to us in mystery every day and we usually miss Him!
One of the reasons for this is that Christ comes to us in a very soft, gentle, unassuming, and every day kind of way. He comes in a prayer whispered or a smile exchanged. He comes in bread and wine changed into His very Body and Blood at Mass. He comes in His Word in the Scripture.
He comes in the cry of a baby and the countless other helpless individuals who cry out for help. He comes in the meal shared or in a tear dried. He comes in worn rosary beads and in those sacred words of absolution. He comes in forgiveness exchanged and a second chance given. He comes in water poured in baptism or vows exchanged in marriage. He comes in an imperfect Church in a struggling world.
They missed Him at Bethlehem. They ignored Him at Nazareth. They misunderstood and chased Him away in Galilee. They put Him to death in Jerusalem–and we do, too. We do the same today as we miss His coming in mystery.
Today–now–is born a Savior, for you, as Christ comes in mystery! Advent is the time to watch for His coming and to recognize Him with faith. The problem’s not that Christ is not coming.
The challenge is that we don’t recognize Him because we’ve been desensitized to His arrival, to His Advent, to His coming into our lives. Yet Christ comes in mystery day in and day out. Advent is an opportunity to re-sensitize our faith so that we’re able to sense His coming in the very plain, ordinary ways of life and in the mysteries of our faith.
Christ’s Threefold Coming
So there you have Our Lord’s threefold coming. The Lord came to us in history as the Holy Infant of Bethlehem. He comes to us now in mystery, and He will come at the end of time in majesty.
During this first week of the Advent season, think about the three comings of Christ.
Is your faith such that you feel you need to renew the Lord’s historical coming, to be renewed in the reality of His Incarnation and what that means to you? Spend this season preparing for the coming of Christ in history, thinking about the reality that you need a Savior and that God has answered His sacred promise.
Perhaps you have not been living your life sub specie aeternitatis, “under the aspect of eternity,” with a focus on how your actions will have repercussions for all eternity, and that you need to prepare for the coming of Christ in majesty. Plan to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation with a firm commitment to reform your life and to live “under the aspect of eternity,” with your eyes focused on the coming of Christ in majesty.
Have you stopped finding Christ in the present? Seek Him out. Spend time in Eucharistic adoration, attend daily Mass, do acts of charity, and expect to experience His coming in mystery.
Come, Lord Jesus!
There is a beautiful traditional prayer for the Season of Advent. It is a prayer that is found in the New Testament and in an ancient document of the early Church called the Didache. It is a simple prayer, but one that can be prayed anytime: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Repeat this prayer often during this Season of Advent and you will recognize with the eyes of faith that, in praying it sincerely, Our Lord has already answered it, will answer it, and will answer it again. Excerpt from the book Advent Reflections: Come, Lord Jesus!