By: Rev. William Patrick Casey, C.P.M.
Advent is the season of the year when the Church calls upon us in a special way to prepare our hearts and purify our souls so we can be ready to celebrate and commemorate the greatest event in all of history: the incarnation. God became man in the person of His only begotten son, Jesus Christ. God assumed a human nature and took on human flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary’s virginal womb became, as it were, the bridal chamber where heaven and earth, divinity and humanity were joined together and wed in a mystical marriage.
Advent is the time of the year when we celebrate Our Lord’s first coming among us while always keeping in mind the fact that He is going to come again. When He comes again, He will come, not as the Babe of Bethlehem, not as a suffering servant, not as a sacrificial lamb, but as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to call this world to judgment. In the Gospel, Our Lord promised that He would come at a time when the world is not ready for Him, and He said that He would catch this world by surprise. It will be a time when the world has finally and absolutely rejected Him. A time when humanity is (humanly speaking) beyond all hope of conversion. A time when man’s evil, violence, corruption and injustice has reached its fullest extent. Our Savior warned His people that we must be always watchful and at the ready, keeping our souls in the state of grace, for we can never know the day or the hour when He will come.
One of the reasons I especially love our readings from Sacred Scripture during liturgical celebrations in Advent is because they present us with some of the words and writings of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. When we speak of the prophets, in general, we are talking about those holy figures of the Bible who were chosen by God to speak in His name by the power and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God spoke to the ancient prophets in words, visions and revelations, and through them promised the world a Savior, a Messiah who would come to make of Himself an eternal sacrifice to free us from the power of sin and death, to reveal to humanity the fullness of divine truth, to show us the way to eternal salvation and perfect union with God the Father, and to establish for us a new and everlasting covenant in His Mystical Body, the Church.
In our Scripture readings for Advent we see how, for over a thousand years and through the centuries before Christ, the prophets were able to foretell His coming. They did not simply foretell His coming into the world. They were able to foretell so many of the actual events of our Lord’s life with such accuracy, such precision, that when He finally came those prophecies fit together like the pieces of a great divine puzzle in the unfolding of God’s magnificent plan of redemption. Those prophecies could only have been fulfilled in the coming of one man: Jesus, the Son of God.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the great Catholic preacher of the last century, used to give profound emphasis to the fact the Our Lord’s coming was pre-announced. The coming of one man (Jesus Christ and no other) was pre-announced. His coming was announced hundreds of years before His time by the great prophets such as Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi and finally, in after His birth, by the last and the greatest of the prophets: St. John the Baptist. They were able to foretell future events only because the Almighty and Sovereign Lord of History revealed it to them through His Holy Spirit!
During Advent, I believe it is important for us to reflect upon the fact that this fulfillment of messianic prophecy is something which sets Christianity apart from other religions. All through history various men arose claiming to have been sent by God and even to be God. Men who had absolutely nothing to support their claims. History is replete with false prophets and false messiahs who never possessed a single shred of evidence to support their claims. But when God spoke to His prophets, the true prophets, He gave the world the abundance of historical evidence it needed to recognize The True Messiah. All of this evidence points to one true Lord and Savior, one true Light of the World: Jesus Christ! He showed that light in the wisdom, the prophecy and the miracles of Jesus Christ, and there is no salvation in anyone else. This evidence demands a verdict on the part of every man and woman. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).