The Three Comings of the Lord
We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. 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; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.
In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself ways: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. There is another passage of Scripture which reads: He who fears God will do good, but something further has been said about the one who loves, that is, that he will keep God’s word. Where is God’s word to be kept? Obviously in the heart, as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.
Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.
Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.
If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you. The Son with the Father will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes all things new. This coming will fulfill what is written: As we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly man. Just as Adam’s sin spread through all mankind and took hold of all, so Christ, who created and redeemed all, will glorify all, once he takes possession of all.
Sermon on Advent, Liturgy of the Hours.
God is infinitely more powerful than the Devil and his hosts. So why doesn’t God prevent them from their evildoing on planet earth? We could ask a similar question about why God doesn’t stop human beings from committing wicked deeds. Evil’s continuing presence among us is a mystery we can’t fully figure out in this life.
Nevertheless, we can say this much: God allows evil because He’s powerful enough to bring out of even the greatest evil a much greater good.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ provides a vivid illustration of this reality. According to the Gospel, when “Satan entered Judas,” one of the twelve Apostles, he went out to betray Jesus (see Luke 22:3-14). So the worst evil we can imagine — the torture and murder of God’s innocent Son — occurred through the Devil’s influence.
Yet the triumph of the empty tomb transformed the horror of the Cross. Satan was thwarted. When Jesus rose from the dead, He displayed God’s power to bring out of the greatest of evils an even greater good: the world’s redemption.
Meanwhile, our days in this life provide a season for God to test, purify, strengthen, and perfect us, making us fit to live with Him forever in heaven. To that end, demons serve as useful tools for Him as they constantly test us by tempting us, so that we become purer and stronger and closer to perfection every time we resist temptation.
In this sense, we might say, quoting St Augustine: “As an artist, God makes use even of the Devil.”
– Paul Thigpen-
Manual for Spiritual Warfare, TAN books, 2014.
“Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, concord, and stability, so that they may exercise without offense the sovereignty that you have given them. Master, heavenly King of the ages, you give glory, honor, and power over the things of earth to the sons of men. Direct, Lord, their counsel, following what is pleasing and acceptable in your sight, so that by exercising with devotion and in peace and gentleness the power that you have given to them, they may find favor with you.”
-Pope St. Clement of Rome-
(As found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, par. 1900)
Jesus loves us so much that He wills to remain with us until the end of time. Therefore, He abides with us in the Blessed Sacrament as the Companion of our earthly pilgrimage, as the Food of our souls, but He also remains with us in the Church as our Guide, our Shepherd, and our Teacher. Jesus formed the first nucleus of the Church by His preaching, by choosing and instructing the Apostles; He gave life to her by dying on the Cross. “The Church,” as the Holy Father notes, “came forth from the side of our Savior on the Cross like a new Eve, Mother of all the living” (Mystici Corporis). Jesus sanctified her by shedding His blood for her. He gave her His power; He made her His spouse and collaborator, continuing through her His work of sanctifying and directing souls. Today Jesus no longer dwells among us as He did nineteen hundred years ago; His Physical Body is gloriously enthroned in Heaven at the right hand of the Father. But He does abide with us in His Mystical Body, the Church, His Spouse and our Mother. Jesus is the living Head of the Church; it is always He who rules her invisibly by His Spirit, the Holy Spirit. He sustains and vivifies her unceasingly, gives her life, and distributes graces to each of her members “according to the measure of His giving” (cf. Eph 4:7). The Church lives by Christ alone; she is holy with His holiness; she is the Mother of souls through her union with Him. This union of Christ with the Church is so intimate and vital that the Church can be regarded as a prolongation of Christ. Indeed, Pope Pius XII teaches that “Christ sustains the Church in a divine manner; He lives in her to such a degree that she is, as it were, another Christ” (Mystici Corporis). Even as it is through the Eucharist that we unite ourselves to Jesus and are nourished with His immaculate Flesh, so it is through His Church that guided and ruled by Him, we are vivified by His grace and nourished by His doctrine. And as we cannot become more one with Christ in this life than by uniting ourselves to Him in the Eucharist, so we can have no greater assurance of living according to His Spirit, of being directed and taught by Him, than by uniting ourselves to the Church and following her directives.
To be a “Child of the Church” is the most glorious title for a Christian and second only to that of “child of God.” These two titles can never be separated — one depends upon the other; for as St. Cyprian has said, “He who does not have the Church for a Mother, cannot have God for a Father.” Jesus wishes to save and sanctify us, but He wishes to do it by means of the Church. He gave His life and shed His Blood for us; He put His most precious merits at our disposal; He gave us the Holy Eucharist and left us the heritage of His doctrine, but He wished the Church to be the sole depository and dispenser of the inestimable benefits, so that all who wish to enjoy them must have recourse to her. Let us go, then, to the Church with the complete confidence of children, certain to find Jesus in her, Jesus who sanctifies, nourishes, teaches, rules, and directs us by means of His representatives. If the thought of being a Child of the Church does not make our hearts vibrate, if our love for the Church is weak, if our recourse to her is not confident, this indicates a lack of the spirit of faith: we have not sufficiently understood that the Church is Christ, continuing to live in our midst to sanctify and sustain us and to lead us to eternal beatitude. “We can think of nothing more glorious, more noble, and more honorable than membership in the Holy Roman Catholic Church, by which we become members of such a holy Body [the Mystical Body of Christ], are guided by one and so sublime a Head [Jesus Christ], are filled with one divine Spirit [the Holy Spirit], and finally, are nourished in this earthly exile with one doctrine and one same heavenly Bread until we are permitted to share the one eternal beatitude in heaven” (Mystici Corporis). Let us love the Church, “the most perfect Image of Christ” (ibid.); let us love the Church, the most pure Spouse of Christ and our Mother; and as He loved her whom “He hath purchased with His own Blood” (Acts 20:28), so let us love her with a true spirit of obedience and filial devotion, offering ourselves completely to serve, glorify, and defend her.
Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy
“Holy Church, our good Mother, after having exalted with fitting praise all her children who now rejoice in heaven, strives also to help all those who still suffer in purgatory, and to this end intercedes with all her power before Christ, her Lord and Spouse, in order that as speedily as possible they may join the society of the elect in heaven.” These are the words of the Roman Martyrology.
Yesterday we contemplated the glory of the Church triumphant and implored her intercession. Today we consider the expiatory pains of the Church suffering and solicit for these souls the divine assistance: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” This is the dogma of the Communion of Saints put into practice. The Church triumphant intercedes for us, the Church militant; and we, in our turn, hasten to the help of the Church suffering. Death has taken from us those we love; yet there can be no real separation from those who have died in the kiss of the Lord. The bond of charity continues to unite us, enfolding in one embrace earth, heaven and purgatory, so that there circulates from one region to another the fraternal assistance which springs from love, which has as its end the triumph of love in the common glory of Paradise.
The liturgy of the day is pervaded with sadness, but it is not the grief of those “who have no hope” (1 Thes 4,12), for it is resplendent with faith in a blessed resurrection, in the eternal felicity which awaits us. The passages chosen for the Gospels of the three Masses for the faithful departed speak to us explicitly of all these consoling truths, and in a most authoritative way, since they repeat to us the very words of Jesus: “This is the will of the Father who sent Me; that of all that He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again in the last day” (Gosp, 2nd Mass: Jn 6:37-40). Could there be a more consoling assurance?
Jesus presents Himself to us today as the Good Shepherd who does not want to lose even one of His sheep, nor does He spare any pains to lead them all to salvation. As if in response to the sweet promises of Jesus, Holy Mother Church, full of gratitude and enthusiasm, cries out: “For with regard to Thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven” (Preface). Rather than an inexorable end, death is, for the Christian, a door opening into eternity, a door which admits the soul into eternal life.
— Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy.
God created us only so that we could share in His joy. It is were not true God created us so that we could share eternally in His Life, existence would have absolutely no meaning; the world would be absurd. It is only in faith in the intentions of God’s love that the world finds its meaning. There world has no other justification than its having been destined in Christ for divine beatitude. This is the response to all those who would object that “a good God would not have been able to created a world so full of misery and suffering.” St Paul responds that it is through this that God seeks to build — and will irrevocably and ultimately succeed in building — the city of God in which his children will be bathed in the light of the Trinity.
–Jean Daniélou, Prayer: The Mission of the Church.
This Makes Me Think… about what being sold-out for God really looks like — even martyrdom becomes a gift
I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God’s wheat and shall be ground by their teeth so that I may become Christ’s pure bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God.
No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. Do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God. If you have him in your heart, you will understand what I wish. You will sympathize with me because you will know what urges me on.
My love of this life has been crucified, and there is no yearning in me for any earthly thing. Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: “Come to the Father.” I no longer take pleasure in perishable food or in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.
-St Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Romans, en route to certain martyrdom.
History footnotes: St Ignatius of Antioch, in his 80s, was being carried to Rome from his church in Antioch to be tried, and likely killed by lions or other wild animals in an arena during a time of persecution between 98 and 117AD. He wrote this letter to the church of Rome to ask the church members there who might otherwise intervene to save him from certain death, to allow him to stand trial and to die for the faith. He did not have “a death wish”, he was deeply devoted to Christ and was ready to die for him if necessary. You can read more of his letter here. You can read more about his life here.
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“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made” (Ps 33:6). This tells us that the world came about as the result of a decision, not from chaos or chance, and this exalts it all the more. The creating word expresses a free choice. The universe did not emerge as the result of arbitrary omnipotence, a show of force or a desire for self-assertion. Creation is of the order of love. God’s love is the fundamental moving force in all created things: “For you love all things that exist, and detest none of the things that you have made; for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (Wis 11:24). Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection. Saint Basil the Great described the Creator as “goodness without measure”, while Dante Alighieri spoke of “the love which moves the sun and the stars”. Consequently, we can ascend from created things “to the greatness of God and to his loving mercy”.
-Pope Francis, Laudato Si, par. 77-
A quote from Pastor Rick Warren, who shared the stage with Cardinal Sean O’Malley at the World Meeting of Families a week ago. He commented on how the family is threatened in today’s society, and what our responsibility is in that regard.
“In today’s society, materialism is idolized, immorality is glamorized, truth is minimized, sin is normalized, divorce is rationalized, and abortion is legalized. In TV and movies, crime is legitimized, drug use is minimized, comedy is vulgarized, and sex is trivialized. In movies, the Bible is fictionalized, churches are satirized, God is marginalized, and Christians are demonized. The elderly are dehumanized, the sick are euthanized, the poor are victimized, the mentally ill are ostracized, immigrants are stigmatized, and children are tranquilized.
In families around the world, our manners are uncivilized, speech is vulgarized, faith is secularized, and everything is commercialized. Christians are often disorganized and demoralized, and their faith is compartmentalized, and witness compromised.
So what do we need? We need to revitalize our worship, minimize our differences, mobilize our members, and evangelize the lost, and we need to re-energize our families.”