29Nov 29 November, 2020. First Sunday of Advent

(Lectionary Readings: Sundays, Year B; Weekdays, Cycle 1 )

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

The prophet admits his people’s sinfulness but recalls God’s mercy too

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.

Responsorial: Psalm 79: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Response: Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see,
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted.

May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again:
give us life that we may call upon your name.

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

As we await the return of Christ, the grace of God 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 do not know the day or hour when the Master will return, to assess us

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.”

BIBLE

May your words, O Lord, enlighten our inmost heart. May they guide us through the storms of life and keep us near to you.


Like people at airports

There are various themes to explore as Advent begins. Isaiah calls us to confess our sins and hope for better days. Paul’s thanksgiving to God is upbeat about the future. Jesus warns us against complacency, for the end is coming sooner than we expect. We might go mainly with the first and third readings, about being prepared for the day of the Lord.

Advent invites reassessment of where our ways are leading us. This annual reminder that the world as we know it will one day end, sounds more appropriate in the northern Wintry season, when daylight is short and darkness seems to be winning over the light. But the positive side of this is that a new Spring day is dawning over the horizon, when Christ will come again into our lives with power to save us.

Do you ever watch people at airports, waiting for loved ones to arrive from a flight? They often seem excited, eager for the first appearance of the familiar face, ready with the broad smile of greeting to embrace the returning traveller. We too wait for the Lord’s coming with eagerness, because we long for his presence. The waiting is important because, during our life’s pilgrimage, we are incomplete. As Augustine once said, “You have made us for Yourself, o Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” At some deep level of our personhood we are in need, a need that only God can fill.

This is a time to open our hearts and invite the Lord to bring us to completion. We begin Advent, yearning for his coming. Today’s first reading puts this yearning into an image, that “We have all withered like leaves… blown by the wind.” The whirling, withered leaves of autumn are a familiar scene these past few weeks. Isaiah proposes the dead leaves as symbols of all that is dried up and withered in our lives. But he also calls us to look 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.

Back to the people at airports waiting for loved ones to arrive. It is an alert, active waiting – keeping an eye on the time. In today’s gospel Jesus says, “Be on your guard, stay awake.” He wants us to focus on our task here and now. We are to grow more mature in our relationship with others and with him, paying attention to prayer, and living with his message in our hearts. That’s what waiting for him should be like. And while we wait, we can enjoy his gifts, as promised, for as Paul assures us: “You will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ.”


One Response

  1. Thara Benedicta

    Key message:
    Our little good deeds will be the Gospel that we will be preaching to the world.
    With God’s grace, continue in them till our time is done.

    Homily:

    Quick excerpts from life of St. Francis of Assisi:
    One day, St. Francis asked one of his brothers to come with him the next day to the town of Assisi to preach the Gospel. The brother was very happy about it. The next day morning, St. Francis and the Brother left their Convent and walked to Assisi. There St. Francis walked through all the streets of Assisi, talking friendly with them, cheering the sad people, visiting the sick, playing with the children, visiting the jail and giving words of encouragement for everyone. When evening came, the Brother started wondering when they would start preaching the Gospel to the people. At sunset, Francis told the brother, “Now my Brother, let us go home and thank God for the day and the good He allowed us do to the people”. In disappointment, Brother said: “But, Brother Francis, when shall we begin preaching? We haven’t started yet!” Francis replied, “Dear Brother, if what we did today was not preaching the Gospel, tell me what was it? Example, brother, example is what we have to give to the people, not just plain beautiful words!”

    Living by example is the best preaching. Our Gospel calls for the best preaching till our time is done; The first and second readings tells us to invoke God’s grace to do the best preaching.

    Takeaway from first reading:

    The first reading explains that if not for God’s grace, all people will go astray. Isaiah pleads to God to mould His people. “We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Always we find that God gives us the grace for every job we are allocated to. We should ensure that we walk according to the silent leading of the Holy Spirit, with all humility so that we are always covered by grace.

    Takeaway from second reading:

    In the second reading, Paul says that “Our Lord will sustain us to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Jesus will provide us grace to do the good works whenever and wherever required. So there is no need for us to panic on how to do an activity or to fulfil our responsibility. Jesus says that it is His responsibility. “I will be with you always till the end of the world.” Our primary focus is to spend time with Him and tell Him that we need Him.

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    Today’s Gospel reading tells us to live ready by doing good deeds and the first and second reading shows us that we need God’s grace to continue in this way. The parents of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus were declared as saints since they gave first priority to God and brought up their daughters according to God’s will. They served God by bringing up their children piously.
    Saint Dominic Savio shared with St. Don Bosco that he would continue playing in the playground even if his death arrived at that instant.
    Saint Charles Borromeo said that he would continue playing billiards if he had to die in the next five minutes. Similarly all the saints were happy when death arrived. They knew the life after death with clarity. When we do our best for our Lord when we live, then we will be happy when our time is done.

    Tips to be persistent in doing little good deeds:

    1. “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” – St. Francis of Assisi. This means we can preach the Gospel by our daily normal living. Our life should be an example to our fellow human beings. They should be wondering amidst all these trials and tribulations that we are undergoing, what it is that gives us so much peace. Who is that giving them so much peace beyond all the understanding?

    2. God is searching for whom to send after hearing his people cry, (Isaiah 6:8).
    We sing the same song sweetly in our churches
    “I will go Lord, if you lead me,
    I will hold your people in my heart”
    We are the people whom God is calling for. So let’s do every good thing that our hands can do, encourage any drooping face in our vicinity – by appreciating what they are, listening to someone’s pain, holding back a harsh word even though we feel they deserve it, forgiving those who have hurt us – even though they have not said sorry. Slowly people will recognise that we are ambassadors of Christ.

    3. When we spend time at the feet of our Lord, we can ask him how we can preach the Gospel today to the people in our own world. He is eagerly waiting for someone to ask that question to be His ambassador. Whenever this question is asked of the Lord, immediately He will remind you of some good deed which has to be done, even if I do not have give much importance to it. That will turn out to be good act at that point of time. All of us would have had similar experiences.

    4. Saint Terese of the Child Jesus in her autobiography has said that she has not committed any sin from the age of 3. We cannot be as obedient as Saint Teresa from the age of 3, but we can work on increasing our success rate in helping others as obedience to God – Ensuring that the number of successes is greater than the number of failures in a day.

    5. Jesus wants us to lead a joyous life – John 15:11 – “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
    If we trust in our Lord and keep His commandments, then we will live with joy in all circumstances. We are more than conquerors in all our challenges since Jesus has won them over already. We need to walk through the challenge and take the victory. When we recall this during our trials that we are conquerors in Jesus Christ even before our battles have started, then we will have joy.
    Hence we should live joyously. Living joyously is one of the best ways to bring people to Christ.

    6. At times even though we want to do the will of God, want to have a closer walk with Him, but still we are frustrated, not having peace. Let’s pray then, that’s the only way to get back to peace. When we do not have peace, our mind will not be able to focus on its own. So we can accept help from any Christian songs or sermons that help us to focus. If we can sit back and recollect in our own life, whenever we have deeply participated in any form of prayer (independent/mass/retreats, etc) we would have enjoyed lots of peace. Peace is the grace of God. Hence Lord Jesus always greets with “Peace be with you”. In the Acts also we find more of the blessing of grace and peace from the Apostles.

    7. Today many people think that they do not deserve God’s grace or God will not help them out of the problems because they have sinned. But Jesus says that “He came to seek the sinners; not the righteous”. So we should never feel that we have sinned so much that God cannot forgive us and provide us His grace. Actually if you are a believer in Jesus, then you cannot even sin so much that God cannot forgive you (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin – Mark 3:28-30, Mathew 12:31-32).

    Little good deeds are little good sermons.


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