03Dec 03 December 2017. 1st Sunday of Advent

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1st Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1-8

The prophet laments his people’s sins but trusts in God’s mercy

For you are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our father;
our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you?
Turn back for the sake of your servants,
for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage.
that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence –
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil
– to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

As we await Christ’s return, grace  keeps us steadfast

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge — even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

We know not the day or hour when the Master will return

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

Therefore, keep awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”


Beginning again, in Advent

Beginning again is an invitation to look in two directions. What happened for me in the last year, both in my ordinary life and in my life as a believer, a person of faith? For what do I ask forgiveness? For what do I give thanks? We also look forward and the new beginning gives us a chance to start again on the Way of discipleship. Both thanksgiving and renewal are to be found in today’s readings. The Gospel is in invitation to wake up, to keep watch, to live fully the present moment under God, in whom we live and move and have our being.

Kieran O’Mahony. (See also his “Pointers for Prayer” for today)

Heightened Awareness

Advent is a time of heightened awareness, inviting us to see ourselves as God sees us, insofar as possible. Both liturgy and life are pointing us towards the future. Isaiah calls us to confess our sins and hope for better days. God’s Word invites us reassess where our ways may be leading us. This annual reminder that the world as we know it will one day end, is more appropriate during the northern wintry season, when daylight is shorter and darkness seems to be winning over the light. But the positive side of this is that a new day is dawning, when Christ will come again into our lives with power to save us.

In his letter called The Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis encouraged us to remember what we have to be joyful about, as friends of Jesus Christ. Advent would be a good time to take this message to heart and even make a new beginning in our Catholic faith in action. It is time to open our hearts and invite the Lord to come more fully into our lives and lead us on.

We begin Advent with a need for his coming. Our first reading puts our need this way: “We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind.” The whirling, withered leaves of autumn have featured these past few weeks. Isaiah proposes whirling leaves as symbols of all that is dried up and withered in our lives. But he also calls us to look out with hope for a better day. God is still in charge of creation, and our personal lives are under his loving care. We pray this Advent, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and make our own the words of the Psalm, “Visit this vine and protect it, the vine your right hand has chosen.” It is a central plank of our faith that the Lord never abandons His people.

It’s interesting to watch people at airports, waiting for loved ones to arrive from a flight… excited, eager for the first appearance of the familiar face, ready with the smile of greeting. We too wait for the Lord’s coming with eagerness, because we long for his presence.. It is an alert, active waiting, this in Advent spirit. In the gospel Jesus says, “Be on guard, stay awake”. He wants us to have a clear purpose in life, to mature in our relationship with him and with others, to give regular time to prayer, and to live with his message in our hearts. And while we wait, we already enjoy his gifts, as Paul assures us that we have the gifts of the Spirit while waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ.

An awakened Church

[José Antonio Pagola]

Jesus is in Jerusalem, seated on the Mount of Olives, looking toward the Temple and talking confidentially with four disciples: Peter, James, John and Andrew. He sees them worried about when the end of the world will come. He, on the contrary, worries about how his followers will live when he’s no longer with them. That’s why he tells them yet again: «Be on your guard, stay awake». Then he tells them a little parable that we usually hardly notice. «A man was travelling abroad..». But before leaving home «he left his servants in charge, each with his own work to do». When he says goodbye, he insists on just one thing: «Stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming». See that, when he comes, he doesn’t find you asleep.

The story suggests that Jesus’ followers form a family. The Church should be «the house of Jesus» in place of «the house of Israel». In that house, all his servants are to be found. There are not masters. All will keep waiting for the one Lord of the house: Jesus, the Christ. In the house of Jesus no one should stay passive. No one should be left out, each one has some responsibility. All of us are needed. We all have some mission entrusted to us by him. We are all called to contribute to the great task of living like Jesus. He was always dedicated to serving God’s Reign.

The years have passed. Is the spirit of Jesus kept alive in our midst? Do we keep remembering his style of serving those most in need, the ones who can’t do it for themselves? Do we keep following him on the path he opened? His great concern is that his Church will fall asleep. That’s why he insists three times: «Stay awake». It’s not just advice for the four disciples who first heard it, but a command for believers of all times: «What I am saying to you I say to all: stay awake!».

The general stance of Christians who haven’t left the Church is surely passivity. For centuries now we’ve educated the faithful in submission and obedience. In the house of Jesus, only a tiny minority hold some ecclesial responsibility. The moment has come to react. We can’t keep increasing even more the distance between «those in charge» and «those who obey». It is sinful to promote coldness, mutual exclusion or passivity. Jesus wants us to see everyone awakened, active, working together conscientiously and responsibly in his project of God’s reign.


Nuair a ghuíonn an fáidh Isaias go n’oscalódh Dia an Flaitheas agus a theacht síos ar an domhan, is dócha go raibh sé ag smaoineamh i dtéarmaí na rudaí a tharla ar Sliabh Sinai blianta fada roimhe sin. In am Maoise bhreathnaigh na hIosraeligh Dia sa bfhásach i measg an dúlra (Ex 19). Ní bhéadh sé inmhianaithe do’n fháidh go dtabharfadh Dia na n’Uile é féin  a thumadh go hiomlán inár saol – ach is é sin díreach cad a thárla i n-iomláine na hama. Cé go raibh Isaias ag guí go mbeadh na sléibhte leá mar chéir i láthair Dé, is cosúil go bhfhuil suim níos mó ag Dia maidir le leá ár gcroí. Tá sé mar a gaibh an Potaire foirm an chré air féin. Le linn na hAidbhinte tugtar cuireadh dúinn smaoineamh ar ár laige daonna, ní hamháin chun aithrí a bheith orainn ach go líonfar ár gcroíthe le hiontas ar an gcaoi a roghnaíonn Dia ár slánú.



Saint Francis Xavier, priest

Francisco Javier (1506-1552) youngest son of Juan de Jasso, counsellor to King John of Navarre, is named from his birthplace, Javier in Navarre, Spain. He studied in Paris with Ignatius of Loyola and with him co-founded the Society of Jesus, as one of the seven who took Jesuit vows in Montmartre (Paris) in 1534. From 1540 until his death 12 years later, he led an energetic mission into Asia, mainly in India and Ceylon, but also visiting Japan, Borneo, and other islands. It was his goal to one day bring the message of Christ to China, but he died prematurely in Portuguese Malacca and was buried in Goa, aged 46.

One Response

  1. Pádraig McCarthy

    1 Cor 1:3-9:
    Paul refers to Jesus Christ six times in this reading, and three times in the preceding two verses: his focus is clear.
    “Our Lord Jesus Christ; who will sustain you to the end.” The Lectionary has “until the last day.” Neither translation, I think, quite gets the original. The Greek word is “telous”, which brings associations of the end as an accomplishment, a completion, not just “It’s over, there’s no more I can do.” Like John 19:30 “It is finished / completed.” Not a cause for terror: God is faithful.
    Mark 13:33-37:
    The preceding verse is: “About that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” So there’s no point in speculating or forecasting or worrying. What’s important is how I live today, in full confident expectation, whatever comes, expected or unexpected. Watch, Stay awake, be alert: these come four times in the reading.

    A poem for Advent:
    Advent 1955, by John Betjeman:

    Yet if God had not given so
    He still would be a distant stranger
    And not the Baby in the manger.

    A totally different Advent reflection:
    Kathleen Raine: Northumbrian Sequence IV:

    Gentle must my fingers be
    And pitiful my heart
    Since I must bind in human form
    A living power so great …
    Let in the wound,
    Let in the pain,
    Let in your child tonight.

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