The sun and moon go dark. Stars fall from the sky. The powers
of heaven quake.
Jesus tells us that these signs will accompany His second
coming. His description of the upheaval of the natural world
reminds us of the events that were recorded at the moment
Jesus died on Calvary: "The earth quaked, rocks were split,
tombs were opened and the bodies of many saints who had
fallen asleep were raised" (cf. Mt 27:51-52). In these two
moments, the Crucifixion and the second coming, God's action
disrupts our world. The grandeur of the world - the sun, the
stars, the clouds, the earth - is rendered useless by the
sanctifying work of Jesus.
Understandably, we are overcome with fear and awe when
confronted with this imagery. Our desire is that the natural
world remain calm and ordered, for that is when we are safe.
But when we imagine the sun and moon darkened, stars falling
from the sky and the heavens quaking, we understand just how
powerful Our Lord is. He is the One through Whom all things
came to be (cf. Jn 1:3), and everything, from the grain of
sand on the seashore to the largest planet in the universe,
is subject to Him.
The imagery that accompanies the second coming shocks us out
of our everyday thoughts and actions, which is needed, for
too easily we fall into stagnancy when thinking about meeting
the Lord. Jesus spoke of His second coming two thousand years
ago, and at this point in time, we have convinced ourselves
that the Triumphant Lord is not going to appear to us any
time soon. We take tomorrow for granted, despite the warning
that He will arrive at an hour that no one knows.
How would life be different if we knew the Master was coming
at any moment? No doubt, we would strive to be prepared to
meet Him at all times. This is the attitude of the disciple
of Christ, who is warned time and time again by Jesus not to
slumber, but to be awake; the Bridegroom is coming.
This does not mean that we stop planning for tomorrow. We
must continue to be active and organized Christians. What it
does mean, however, is that we place an emphasis on the
quality of our spiritual lives, that is, our relationship
with the Triune God. For those of us who have allowed
ourselves to fall into grave sin, we must seek God's mercy in
the sacrament of penance, and then take efforts to avoid that
temptation, whatever it is, in the future. In this way, we
In addition to confession, we must develop the practice of a
daily examination of conscience, to set aside time each day
to review how we have fared in our efforts to live as
Christians. It is through this examination that we come to
know the ways the evil one tempts us, and once we know them,
we can pray for strength in those moments of temptation and
plan our means of avoiding them. In this way, we prepare
ourselves by maintaining souls that are clean and ready to
Another means of preparing ourselves is prayer, for it is in
prayer that we unite ourselves to Our Triune God, speaking to
Him as well as listening to Him. It is in prayer that we grow
to know and love God and find peace in His divine will for
us. Without prayer, we are more prone to frustration when
God's will is not aligned with ours. With prayer, we can more
easily accept the triumphs and crosses of each day knowing
they are part of the plan God has designed for us. This
prayerful and peaceful approach allows us to remain prepared
to encounter Jesus.
While the imagery of the second coming may seem frightening,
we must remember that God is love. His desire is to take us
to Himself when He comes in His glory. Thus, in this life, He
offers us His grace and His forgiveness that we may be ready
for greet Him, whenever He comes.
Fr. Wagner is Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde's secretary.