02Dec 02 December 2018. 1st Sunday of Advent

Advent invites us to think some new thoughts, imagine new projects, and focus our basic options at the start of a the Church’s year of worship. We renew our welcome to Jesus as the anchor of our lives, and prepare for  his return at the end of time. Advent is an open invitation to make a new start in our personal spiritual journey.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16

In those days [my people] will live in safety

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

Responsorial Psalm — Ps 24: 4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

R./: To you, O Lord, I lift my soul

Lord, make me know your ways.
Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:
for you are God my Saviour. (R./)

The Lord is good and upright.
He shows the path to those who stray,
he guides the humble in the right path;
he teaches his way to the poor. (R./)

His ways are faithfulness and love
for those who keep his covenant and will.
The Lord’s friendship is for those who revere him;
to them he reveals his covenant. (R./)

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2

Paul’s prayer for Christians to grow in love and holiness

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Gospel: Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Making ready for the final day when Christ will come as judge

[Jesus said to his disciples]
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”


Starting again

There is an urgency in our holy Scriptures for today, the first Sunday of Advent. They invite us to a spiritual tune-up at the start of our new liturgical year.

Conversion: Paul uses the vivid imagery of throwing off the bed-clothes and getting dressed to start the new day . There is maybe some hint of the struggle some people experience in getting up in the morning — a symbol for conversion. The day to prepare for is the new day of Christ’s coming in judgment. The real question to be faced is “Can we face Christ?” “Have we really cast off the deeds of darkness/self-interest, in favour of living in the light of the gospel?” The gospel faces us with this question about how alert we are to our real selves. We are supposed to belong to Christ; have we really lived as if that were true? Part of the struggle of taking on a new day is the struggle to hope that it may be better than the failures of the day before. The process of conversion, turning from the darkness to the light, is only made possible by the gift of the light itself. It is the rising of the sun that calls us to get up. It was the coming of Christ into the world as its light that makes true conversion possible.

Renewal: Advent invites us to reflect upon time, the relationship between past, present and future. The saving events of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, have to be made present in life as well as liturgy. It is in the changing circumstances of life that the mystery of salvation will unfold. In this new year we hope to be renewed, both individually and as community; and more fully respond to Christ’s presence among us. Let us not give our young people the impression that our church is a relic of the past, isolated from the dynamics of history.

New Dawn: Our Scriptures offer us a bright vision of a new world. It is the vision of a world fully at peace, and a challenge to walk in the light of the Lord. The task of building this towards this ideal world is given to all people but especially to Christians who follow the ultimate peace-maker, Jesus. The challenge for today is how to transform the instruments of war (nuclear fission; digital technology etc) into instruments of a world at peace.

The new liturgical year invites us to be better peace-makers in the future. If we more fully mirror the spirit of Christ, our young people will see new value in the faith, and our worship will be turned not merely towards the past but towards a living presence and a real future.

Advent and Patience

Advent reminds us of the three comings of the Lord — his coming in history over 2000 years ago; his coming in glory at the end of time when God’s dream for human kind will be realised; his invisible presence amid the happenings of our daily life.

If we can learn in these weeks of Advent the importance of patient waiting we have learned one of the greatest lesson in life. Patience is hard to practice in our hectic world. We live in an instant age — instant food, instant gratfication. We even speed up nature: with artificial light we fool the hens to lay two eggs a day! We are in too much of a hurry in having every possible experience too early in life — the morning-after pill for eleven year olds!

The most important things in life cannot be rushed and require patient waiting. Patient waiting is required from the mother to bring the child to birth, and then from babyhood to adulthood; the teacher requires it with the slow learner; the politician requires it not to give up on the peace process, and everybody requires it to build loving relationships. We wait not mournfully, but in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Listening to the inner voice

Today we begin our preparation for celebrating the birth of Christ, our Saviour, at Christmas. Our Scripture readings urge us to make ourselves ready, to be on the alert, to turn aside from disctractions and give more time to God in our lives.”Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord,” says Isaiah . We must not live lives of darkness and of sin, says St Paul, but “put on the armour of grace,” and walk in the light, guided by the Holy Spirit.”Be vigilant, stay awake,” says the gospel, for we do not know at what moment our life may end, as unexpectedly as the people who were drowned by the Flood, in the time of Noah.

Outwardly, all may be normal, with men and women busy at thair daily occupations… but inwardly they have responded differently to the gift of life. They are in varying states of preparedness for the day of judgment, so that while some will be taken into God’s kingdom, others will be left outside. On our journey through life we are always faced with a choice between two ways, either that of selfishness and sin, or, on the other hand, that of grace, which is letting conscience be our guide in all that we do.

If we do our best to live as God our Father wants, we will experience authentic freedom and we will be ready for the coming of our Saviour at Christmas. Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” It would be good to ask ourselves during Advent, “What could I be doing to better serve God and my neighbour?” Any service done from a loving heart brings its own reward. Advent is the most suitable time for listening to the word of God. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, so that he may teach us his ways.”

Smaoineamh le séasúr na hAidbhinte

Má dhéanaimid ár ndhícheall maireachtáil mar is mian le Dia ár nAthar, beidh taithí againn ar fhíor shaoirse agus béimíd réidh le teacht ár Slánaitheora ar Nollaig. Dúirt Íosa, “Beidh aithne agaibh ar an fhírinne, agus saorfaidh an fhírinne sibh.” Ba mhaith an rud sinn féin cheistiú i rith na hAidbhinte, “Cad ba féidir liom a dhéanamh chun freastal níos fearr ar Dhia agus ar mo chomharsa?” Aon seirbhís a dhéantar as chroí grámhar, gheobhaidh sé a luach saothair féin. Is é an t-Aidbhint an t’am is is oiriúnaí chun éisteacht a dhéanamh ar Bhriathar Dé. “Imímís in áirde ar sliabh an Tiarna, ionas go múinfidh Sé a chuid bhealaí dúinn.”

2 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    1. Advent tends to be swamped by Christmas music and Christmas noise. It should be a quiet time, where we step back to the fundamental experience of Israel, the experience of trustful waiting on the Lord’s deliverance. It’s a desert time, when we empty our minds of the clutter of the past and when our hearts learn from the Prophets what are the deepest needs that underlie our lives. Advent reawakens hope and longing for a better future. Not just a secure financial future for me or you, but a future of Redemption for the entire people.

    2. Beyond all the worries and impassioned debates of politics and economics today like two deep threats that weigh ever more heavily and that we don’t like to think about. They are threats of an apocalyptic level worthy of the fearful language of today’s Gospel. One of these is the threat of nuclear extinction. The other is the threat of climate catastrophe.

    The first of these declared itself suddenly in the inhuman demonstration of the new weapons’ horrific power on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and was confirmed when two superpowers faced each other armed with hydrogen bombs. Ever since then the world has been a hair-trigger away from total extinction, and there have been hundreds of times when we survived only by lucky hair-breadth escapes. Noam Chomsky posits divine intervention as the explanation of this remarkable record of good luck.

    The climate threat has grown slowly, like the slowly mounting waters of a tsunami, and awareness of it has been dulled by a culture of denial sustained by commercial interests. Registering the full extent of the danger one is inclined to cry, “Only God can save us now!” When a plastic-eating enzyme turned up recently, some were wondering if there were not after all a place for a “God of the gaps.”

    In both cases we are tempted to ask, “How could God let his creation get into such a parlous state? Where is Providence in all this?”

    3. The sweet consoling hymns of Christmas hardly engage with these terrifying questions, That is why we need the more abrasive fare of the Prophets, who so often spokie in times of terrific crisis.

    The first words of most prophets are words of doom, their last words are words of consolation; the words of doom wake us up, shake us out of complacency and denialism, and the words of consolation are not a sentimental escape but recall the faithfulness of God and the power of his promise of Redemption.

    Their language is not archaic and irrelevant but chimes with our deepest fears and hopes, so deep that we are often unaware of them and blot them out with fuss about things that are of no account in the long run.

    Luke’s version of Jesus’s eschatological discourse also contains notes of consolation: “In your patience you shall possess your souls” (RSV: “By your endurance you will gain your lives”) (21:19); “Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (21:28). These two Lukan additions soften the harshness of the discourse as found in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Throughout the year ahead the gospel readings are from Luke, and we can look forward to enjoying the particular grace and gentleness of his writing. Luke, who thought of himself as a historian, attempts to sort out the eschatological warnings into different historical phases: the persecution of witnesses to Christ (12:12-19), the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE (21:20-24), the parousia of the Son of Man (21:25-36).

  2. Pat Rogers

    Great stuff, Joe. Many thanks indeed. Are you still teaching in Tokyo? If so, all the more pleasing that you’re in touch from halfway around the world. Lean ar aghaidh leis an obair!

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