Already, And Not Yet

This third Sunday of the Advent season is called Gaudete Sunday. The vestments worn are rose colored, rather than violet. We can almost reach out and touch Christmas, but we’re not quite there yet.

There is an important theological concept that helps us understand the tension in which we live, both as we approach the Advent season but really all throughout our earthly lives. We live in a tension that is called the “already and not yet.” During this season of Advent, we must wait patiently until all four candles on our Advent wreath are burning and we have finally flipped the calendar page to December 25. Everything around us shouts “Christmas is here!”

We know as Catholics, that this season of Advent is to be a time of preparation. Just as Mary prepared in her heart to be the Mother of God, we too must prepare our hearts to receive the Christ child at Christmas. And as the world tries to pull us into the Christmas season, encouraging us to purchase expensive gifts and focus on the commercial aspect of the season, there is a tension in us.

The “already” refers to the fact that Jesus Christ has already established His Kingdom here on earth. Jesus came to the humble manger and lived among us. He worked, played, prayed, and learned. He grew up and had many beautiful relationships in his earthly life. His death on Calvary and his glorious Resurrection brought an end to death and opened the way for new life for those who would follow him. Each Sunday as we celebrate the heavenly liturgy, we experience a foretaste of what is to come when our earthly life is over.

Our readings this weekend point us to what is “not yet, but soon to come.”

Our first reading from Isaiah reminds us that the eyes of the blind will be opened; the ears of the deaf will be cleared.  We are reminded that God has much more in store for us in the life hereafter.

Our second reading from James encourages us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. We are reminded that the Lord’s coming is at hand. This is a promise to which we can hold fast, as we endure the challenges of this earthly life.

In our gospel this weekend, John, while imprisoned, sent his followers to inquire about Jesus. Was this the promised Messiah, or should they look for another? Jesus points to his works of healing the blind and curing the lame as proof.  Jesus tells his followers that John was the messenger sent to prepare the way and that Jesus is the Way.

These days in which we live have caused many to wonder if the end of the world is coming sooner than we think. Of course no one but God the Father knows the day and time of the second coming. We see natural disasters and wonder if the end is near. We see horrific violence and suffering and wonder if God is going to bring an end to this world. In our own lives, we may experience extreme hardships, death, and suffering and wonder if the day is close at hand. We live in the tension of the life we have been given on earth and the life we hope for one day when we are united with our Savior and our deceased loved ones in heaven.

We know that one day Jesus will come again, and every tear will be wiped away. There will be no more sorrow, no more pain, and no more death. Until that day, we must live the life we have been given, trusting that our loving God is with us.

And so we prepare our hearts to receive the greatest gift the world has ever known. Christmas is a time to be joyful and celebrate the goodness of God who sent his only Son to save us from our sins. Let us take these final days of Advent to truly prepare the stable of our hearts—to remember that this earthly life is intended to prepare us for the life that is to come. Let us make our hearts a humble stable ready to receive the Newborn King on Christmas.

In Christ who is our Peace,
Deacon Tim

 

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