December 13, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Are you the one who is to come? Or should we look for another?

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (cf. Mt 11:4-6).

This weekend, we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent. Christ is coming again, but how will we recognize him?

When our Lord comes again, he will look very much like he did the first time he came. Why would we expect anything different?

The Gospel reading for this Sunday (Mt 11:2–11) tells us that when John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to check him out, they asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Mt 11:3)

We might be tempted to ask the same question given all the confusion and uncertainty in our world today. Although no one knows the day or the hour, our faith assures us that the Lord will come again. That’s what we celebrate during the Advent season—both our Christmas remembrance of his first coming, and our Advent anticipation of his return.

Since Jesus has already suffered, died and risen, his second coming will undoubtedly be different. But there is no reason to think that his presence among us will in any way contradict the original mission he received from his Father. If we ask, “Are you the one, or should we look for another?” the answer will be the same. What you see is what you get: “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Mt 11:5).

When Christ comes again, the circumstances will be different, but there’s no reason to doubt that he will once again speak the truth with love. That’s what the Last Judgment is all about.

We can be confident that Christ’s presence will heal the sick, forgive sinners and bring hope to human hearts that have lost all hope. That’s who Jesus is—our Savior, our Redeemer, our brother and our friend. He won’t come with attitude or with grandiosity or with self-serving ambitions. He will come to show God’s mercy, and to do his Father’s will, by collecting us, the lost sheep, and bringing us home.

With the first reading this Sunday (Is 35:1–6a, 10), we envision the kingdom that is both in our midst and still to come. It is a very different world than we have experienced since the fall, our first parents’ original sin. Joy and gladness will be abundant; mourning and sorrow will flee:

“The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God” (Is 35:1-2).

The second coming of our Lord, which we long for in a special way during Advent, will establish once and for all the triumphant reign of God made possible by the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

But this does not mean that Christ will appear in the guise of a conquering hero. If the Gospels tell us anything, it is that we should not look for a superstar, but for the humblest and most selfless person we can imagine—someone who would be willing to lay down his life for us in order to set us free.

With Isaiah the prophet we can sing:

“Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing” (Is 35:4-6).

Let’s make the final weeks of Advent a true preparation for our Lord’s coming again. Since he is not limited by our conceptions of time and space, we are blessed with the knowledge that Christ is always with us—past, present and still to come.

How can we recognize him when he comes again? By looking for the signs he himself gave us!

“And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me” (Mt 11:6), Jesus said to John’s disciples. Blessed are we when we recognize Jesus in the poor, in strangers and in people who are very different from us. He comes among us exactly as he is—the one we least expect to save us and set us free. †

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