“This too shall pass” is an ancient Persian adage that aptly summarizes a key theme of Scripture. We know the things of this earth will pass away at the end of time. So will sin and death, as Christ has conquered these by his cross and resurrection. In the end, for the faithful, all that remains is to bask in the loving presence of God throughout eternity.
Yet even among believers, our earthly lives can wear us down. The present pandemic provides a timely example — we face continued social and safety limitations, many of us have lost friends and loved ones, and we may have suffered the effects of the virus ourselves. As the crisis drags on, we might be tempted to lose hope that it will ever go away.
Deep down, however, we know this too shall pass.
As disciples of Christ, we must keep our eyes on the things that endure and — as the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent remind us — live with Christian hope. Such hope springs from the blessed assurance that what God has promised will indeed come to pass.
During Advent, we reflect on the two “comings” of Christ. We anticipate the celebration of his Incarnation, when he became man to save us from sin, fulfilling God’s promise of a Redeemer. We also look ahead to his Second Coming at the end of the world, when he will make all things new. “According to his promise,” says St. Peter in our second reading, “we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pt 3:13).
We hope for Christ’s coming in the way that the souls in purgatory hope to enter heaven: God has given his promise, yet we yearn for its fulfillment.
Ours is not a passive hope. The spirit of vigilance urged in last week’s readings demand as much. As Isaiah prophesies and as John the Baptist proclaims, we must “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mk 1:3). If it seems Christ delays his return, we know it is for our benefit. “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance,” writes Peter (2 Pt 3:9).
He delays his coming because we are not quite ready for him; we are not prepared yet to receive him. He earnestly desires to save us, but in order to be saved we must act in cooperation with his grace. In his mercy, he allows us time to turn away from sin through the sacraments and to embrace the forgiveness he offers us. Peter cautions that because we await his coming, we should “be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace” (2 Pt 3:14).
It is time to be single-minded in our pursuit of holiness. Our preparation for Christ’s Second Coming is above all a spiritual preparation. So is our Advent preparation for Christmas. Both preparations begin with repentance and commitment to right living as we remain vigilant in our blessed hope for Christ’s return.
Gerald Korson, a veteran Catholic journalist, is a member of the Knights of Columbus in Indiana. This is his second reflection in the Knights of Columbus Advent series. Read the reflection for the first week of Advent.
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