Oblate Program at Belmont Abbey, NC

The Middle-Coming of the Lord (Advent 2015)



annunciation_web“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. This is the meaning of the season, for the Word that became flesh was from the beginning, as is stated in the commencement of the Gospel of John. So if the above is true, then all of human history has been a time of waiting and of expectation, even if this is often forgotten, or not believed to be true.

So we have the first coming of Christ and we await the second coming. Yet God still comes to us in every moment, this is often thought of as the ‘Middle Coming’. All of the comings are of course ‘one’, but we do experience them as distinct. In every human life the birth, life, suffering and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are played out as we journey towards our entry into the mystery called death.

How is this ‘Middle Coming’ experienced by us? Conversion is one way, when someone has a powerful experience of the reality of Christ Jesus and the truth of who he is. This can be so powerful that all of ones life is changed and our relationship with others and the world takes the convert on a totally different direction. In conversion there is judgment, healing and mercy. Without conversion there is only judgment since it is impossible to go further if there is no faith or desire for mercy and healing.

However, there is another way of looking at this ‘Middle Coming’. In the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’, the Father is seen waiting everyday for the return of his wayward child. Such is the Father’s relationship with all of us when we close ourselves off from a personal, trusting relationship. Yet God waits. When the son returns, the Father rushes towards his beloved and embraces him. In reality, the Father because of his love never left his child. Or it could be said that the Father’s love was always in a state of movement which could only find fulfillment when the son was open to the Father’s embrace.

This ‘Middle Coming’, could also be seen as meaning that God meets us where we are. Waiting and relating at the same time. In advent the reality of God’s love for us, which implies relationship in a profoundly intimate manner can’t be lost, though it can be rejected freely. In the parable of the ‘Prodigal Son’ the final outcome was not revealed. The son could have left once again, or perhaps the elder brother rejected both his Father and his brother over what was perceived as an injustice.

The love and intimacy that God has with us can’t be escaped. However having a personal relationship can be refused, for all of the comings of the Lord are invitations to allow our deepest longings to be experienced by allowing ourselves to be healed and loved by Infinite Love. If mercy is not accepted, then there is only justice left. Justice is simply leaving us to ourselves, to experience what was chosen freely. Who does that (?), well I don’t know, for the workings of grace and the depth of the human heart is hidden from us in our everyday lives. The road to eternal alienation from God has to be chosen over and over again. For as long as we live, we are all pursued by this love. No, best not to try figuring it out, for in reality, we are all pursued by this love and that pursuit will never let up, that is why ‘Love hopes for all things’.

Who does not fail in living up to their beliefs? Is there anyone who does not wander off the path? Can there be people who can say that they love in the way that Christ calls them to? When we know our own heart, we find that to judge others at the depth of their soul or worth is in reality ‘self-judgment’. When we learn to love ourselves as commanded, we see that we can love others as well. All are God’s beloved child; no one has the right to reject or to isolate anyone. We are called to the freedom to love just as the Father loves each of us and waits patiently when we struggle and fail.

Advent is a time of expectation and points out the importance of our lives and its urgency. Not to make us fearful but to open our souls so that we can become truly childlike in how we relate to God and others. If we can’t show others the love that we experience from the Lord, how can we expect them to listen to us when we discuss and share our faith? We can change no one. We struggle to change ourselves, often taking a lifetime, for the healing that grace brings often works slowly over time. All we can do is to share and in dong so we plant seeds that will take root and grow. We are called to see as Christ saw, or to see as the Father of the ‘Prodigal Son’ looked upon his beloved child.

The use of intimidation and fear comes naturally to us. To be loving and patient with others is another manner entirely.

Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO
Holy Spirit Monastery


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