And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)
On of my favorite books on the Blessed Virgin is The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary – From the Visions of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich. According to her visions, the ancestors of Mary were Essenes, people who lived a very ascetical life and who yearned for the Messiah with every breath. They were among those who were eagerly awaiting him.
Anne Catherine’s visions have been checked against other sources of historical and cultural knowledge as far as is possible. They have been found to have very few faults and many of those may be attributed to faults of memory, transcription or translation. According to her visions, the families of Saints Joachim and Anne were not materially poor, but even so, they embraced poverty. Many of them, including the holy parents of Mary distributed their possessions in this way: the best third to the Temple, and the next best third to the poor, keeping for themselves only what was last and least. In return, God multiplied their herds and each year they were able to do this again and again. In their hearts through it all was the constant longing for the Messiah.
Their longing was fruitful as we know. What we don’t know is precisely what role their prayers and sacrifices played in bringing the savior to earth. On Page 6 of the book we read: “(The head of the Essenes on Mount Horeb) had knowledge of the family from which the mother of the Messias was to come, and at the time that he gave prophetic advice to the grandparents of St. Anne in matters of marriage, he saw that the day of the Lord was approaching. He did not, however know how long the birth of the Saviour’s mother might still be prevented or delayed by sin, and so he was always preaching penance, mortification, prayer and inner sacrifice for this intention…”
Sound familiar? As we read the above scripture passage in light of this vision, we can see how history may be repeating itself in the call of the Blessed Mother to increased fasting and prayer. Just as her ancestors did this to prepare the way for the Messias, so we who are also eagerly awaiting him are called to the life of penance to prepare the way for him to come again in glory.
We can learn much from the ancestors of Jesus and Mary on how to hasten the day of the Lord. What earthly comfort or convenience can compare with the glorious events we long for? Whatever the material circumstances of our lives, we are called to embrace poverty by placing all our time, talent and treasure at the complete disposal of the Lord, who first gave it to us. In this way we can begin to imitate those penitents whose prayers and sacrifices called the Messiah to earth two millennia ago.
It doesn’t take a prophet to read the “signs of the times” today. Still, there is no way to know how long the coming of Jesus might be prevented or delayed by sin. It is comforting to read that penance, mortification and prayer have for many ages been seen to be a remedy for this. Then let us continue in the important—not to say urgent—work God has given us to do as penitents. May His kingdom come. May His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.