RCIA for the First Sunday of Advent – Catholic Doctrine
So Jesus was born in a stable over 2000 years ago in Bethlehem to a poor carpenter and his wife. He entered the world very humbly. But Jesus will return in glory! This is what we celebrate in the readings this week at Mass. You will notice though that throughout every Mass we are looking forward to and exclaiming that Jesus will come again in glory.
In each Mass we proclaim our Profession of Faith (the Nicene Creed). One of the lines in the creed is ‘He will come again in glory.’ We know that Jesus proclaimed His kingdom when He was here on earth, but we believe that His kingdom won’t be fully realized until He comes again in glory which is the second coming. Here many use the phrase “The kingdom is already and not yet.”
During the Lord’s Prayer portion of the Communion Rite at Mass, the priest says ‘Lord… in your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.’ One of the Memorial Acclamations that we proclaim during the Eucharistic Prayer is ‘dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory!’ As we participate in the Mass and receive our Lord in the Eucharist each Sunday, we are joyfully awaiting Jesus’ return in glory when he fulfills his promise to us.
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church the doctrine of Christ’s return is examined in several places. In the explanation of the creed it says that while Christ is really and truly present in His Church today, His reign is not yet fulfilled ‘with power and great glory’ which will only happen when He returns to earth in the second coming. His reign at this time is still under attack by the evil powers, even though Christ defeated sin and death in His Passion on Good Friday. So until Christ comes again, all of His people carry the mark of the world (the darkness, the sin). But we remain optimistic that Christ will come again in glory and we will be saved from the evils of this world.
As to when Christ will return, He said the hour has not come, in fact no one knows the exact time of His return except the Father. When Christ does return it will be the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom which is to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace. In the mean time, we are to be watchful and wait for His return, and we are to be witnesses to those around us of Christ’s coming glory. This time is also distressful and subject to the trials of the evil one, but we must persevere in our struggles against the evils of this world.
There are many problems in the world today. We are all waiting for the world to be more just, more peaceful, more loving. We wait with anticipation for God’s restoration of a peaceful, just and loving world. It’s a basic human desire to want these things. But we have to be careful not to want the end to come too soon just because we want to see God take care of all of the evil in the world. We must pray for the conversion of souls. Many people have turned from their evil ways and we must continue to pray that more do. Do not underestimate the human heart’s capacity for transformation. Christ comes into our lives every day, our prayer and watchfulness allow us to see His presence, and in turn this prepares us for the moment of our death when we will come face to face with Christ; it also energizes us in our anticipation for His coming in glory.
What are some current end of the world predictions? Why are these dangerous?
Christ’s return is usually synonymous with the end of the world. Eschatology is the branch of theology on the doctrine of the ‘last things’ or the end of the world. The last things are commonly referred to as the four last things – death, judgment, heaven and hell. These four last things pertain more to the individual eschatology, meaning our own end times, our death. There is also a universal and cosmic eschatology pertaining to the end of the world, the four last things here are the approach of the end of the world, the resurrection of the body, the general judgment and the final consummation of all things. The Catholic eschatology theology doesn’t get into specifics of the end times; i.e., how many people will be saved, when and how the end will come, etc., rather it provides a clear statement of what needs to be known at the present time and what can be understood regarding our personal life and death issues and those of the cosmos.
Based on what you have learned today, what do you now think should be a part of your Advent preparations for the Christmas season?
We have the secular/commercial/visible preparations for the Christmas holidays. While they have a purpose they aren’t the preparations needed for the Advent of our Lord. What can we do to prepare for the coming of the kingdom?
Some Catholic Advent activities:
- The Advent Wreath – a circle of greenery with four candles, three purple and one rose. A circle has no beginning or end symbolizing God’s eternity. The evergreens symbolize continuous life. The four candles are for the four weeks of Advent. The purple candles represent the prayer, penance, and preparatory sacrifices and good works of the season. The rose candle is lit during the third week of Advent; we rejoice that our preparations are half way over. The light of the candles signify Christ himself, who is the light of the world. In family practice, the Advent wreath is usually lit at dinner time with accompanying prayers. (Source – Rev. William Saunders, http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0132.html)
- Advent Calendar – Some lovely Advent calendars can be purchased with scripture verses to be read each day of Advent. A personal calendar can be made where you set personal goals of preparation or acts of service to be done for others. The USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website has an on-line Advent calendar with readings, prayer, reflections and actions for each day. (http://www.usccb.org/advent/index.shtml)
- Some other devotional ideas can be found on the EWTN website – http://www.ewtn.com/devotionals/advent/index.htm
End of Time References:
The Catholic Encyclopedia – Eschatology
Fr. John Riccardo, Detroit area pastor – The Four Last Things RCIA lesson
All of Fr. John Riccardo’s RCIA podcasts (these podcasts are highly recommended!)