28Nov Sunday, November 28 2021. First Sunday of Advent

Sunday, November 28 2021
First Sunday of Advent

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 fulfil 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 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 fervour 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 a new Liturgical Year

There is a note of urgency and summons to alertness in both the second reading and the gospel today. These might provide one with a jumping-off point for some reflections on the start of the liturgical year.

Conversion: One might adapt or make use of Paul’s imagery of throwing off the bed-clothes and dressing for the daytime. The whole image is one of getting ready to take on another day. There is a hint here of the struggle that some people experience in trying to get up in the morning — a symbol for conversion. The day that has to be faced is the new day of Christ’s final coming. 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.

The renewal of the old: Part of the process of beginning a new liturgical year is a reflection on time, the relationship between past, present and future. The “time” that we celebrate in Christian liturgy is not the static time of repeated patterns that never change from year to year. What we celebrate centrally in our worship are events from the contingency of history; events that we claim to represent. Starting a new year we need to remember that 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 new life and new history that the mystery of salvation will unfold. In this new year we will all change, both individually and as community; we pray today that the change will be for the better realization of Christ’s presence among us. It is important for us to be able to focus on this hope-in-change for the sake of the young people in the community who sometimes experience the church community as a relic of the past, “unreal” and isolated from the dynamics of history.

Seeking a new world: Today we are presented with an old vision of a new world. It is so old that some people think it will never become real. It is the vision of a world at peace (first reading.) The challenge of that lesson is addressed to each of us, the challenge to walk in the light of the Lord. It is only through seeking his revelation and living it out that the peoples of the earth will find the way to this new world of peace. The task of building this reality is given to all people but especially to Christians who follow the ultimate peace-maker (cf. Eph 2:11 ff..) The challenge and the urgency of the call to build peace is not confined to the scriptural word of God. Contemporary analysts tell us of the importance of transforming the instruments of war into tools for the development of a world at peace.

The new liturgical year offers us the hope that we will be better peace-makers in the future. It offers us the hope that if we do “put on Christ” our young people will not lose heart, and our liturgical celebrations will be turned not merely towards the past but towards a living presence and a real future.


Advent Patience

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

If we can learn in these weeks of Advent the importance of patient waiting we have learned one of the great lesson in life. This is hard for us, especially in the West. We live in an instant age — instant food, instant this, that and the other. 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.


Expect the Unexpected

Today, the first Sunday of Advent , marks the beginning of a period of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ, our Saviour, at Christmas. All the readings in the Mass advise us most urgently to make ourselves ready, to be on the alert, to turn aside from our sinful ways, and give more time to God in our lives. “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord,” Isaiah says in the first reading. We must not live lives of darkness and of sin, St Paul admonishes his listeners; but let us put on the armour of God’s grace, and appear in the light, meaning that our consciences should have nothing to hide at any time, but rather be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit directing them. “Be vigilant, stay awake,” the gospel warns, at any moment you may be called upon to make an eternal choice, and that as unexpectedly as the people who were swallowed up by the Flood, in the time of Noah.

Outwardly, people may appear the same, like the men working in the fields or the women grinding at the millstone, but inwardly they have responded differently to the graces God has given them. So they are in varying states of preparedness for what is to come, with the result that while some will be taken into God’s kingdom, others will be left or rejected. This is true of every single individual, for as we pass through life we are all being faced with a choice between two ways, either that of slavery to evil tendencies in our lives, which we call sin, or, on the other hand, that of grace, which is allowing Jesus Christ be our guide and exemplar in all that we do.

It is only when we sincerely try to model our lives on that of Christ that our spirits will experience real freedom. Jesus himself said to the Jews (Jn 8:32), “If you persevere in my word, you will indeed be my disciples. You will learn the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Persevering in the word of Jesus demands that we listen to it, as it comes to us from out the scriptures and from within our consciences; also that we think about it and study its requirements, and that we put into action what we have learned. The true disciple of Christ asks the question, “What am I setting before myself as the main purpose of my life?” My career, the gaining of material possessions, the pursuit of pleasure, or the service of God and my neighbour? The truth of Jesus will teach us what things are really important and what are not. Furthermore, discipleship of Christ brings its own rewards. It brings freedom from fear, fear about oneself, fear about one’s ability to cope with life, fear about contradiction and opposition from others, fear about death and the uncertainty of life thereafter. “In love there can be no fear,” St John wrote (1 Jn 4:18), “but perfect love casts out fear; because to fear is to expect punishment, and anyone who is afraid is still imperfect in love.”

If we end up having no love or reverence towards God, no respect or consideration or pity towards others, then we will have reached the stage of choosing to be lost, as Jesus, in his prayer at the Last Supper, said of Judas. “Father, I kept those you had given me true to your name. I have watched over them, and not one is lost except the one who chose to be lost.” This is what should really frighten us, that the choice of our own destiny for all eternity rests entirely with ourselves.

Advent is a time for listening. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,” the first reading tells us, “so that he may teach us his ways, and that we may walk in his paths.” The second reading is the one that finally brought about the conversion of St Augustine after he had opened the New Testament at random at that very passage, and please God it will help us to look into our own lives and, if needs be, change them too.


2 Responses

  1. Thara Benedicta

    Key Message:
    Are we getting ready for the Second Coming too?

    Homily:
    The takeaway from the first reading:

    Once there was a little boy named Rick. Immediately after his birth, his father had to go to another country for work. Rick was often troubled by the other neighbourhood kids. He had a difficult time on his own. His father would always send one of his friends to take care of Rick and would also send word through him that he would come soon and be with him. Rick was be happy with his dad’s friend for some time, but was always waiting and longing to see his own dad. He was waiting, ‘When I will see the face of my own dad?’
    Rick is none but the people of God waiting to see their father’s face in person. Till Adam and Eve sinned, God our Father was walking on the surface of the earth with Adam and Eve. They would have talked, laughed and walked. Adam and Eve each would have been holding one hand of God while they were walking. God enjoyed walking and talking with them. What would have been their joy, to walk on either side of Almighty God!!
    After the first sin, they lost the chance of walking and talking with Almighty Father on the surface of the earth. They could not withstand the presence of our Almighty God. As Rick waited for his dad’s coming, people waited for God’s coming, once again. God sent His prophets to the people to take care of them. Like Rick, they still waited for God to come on earth. It is the wait that was satisfied with the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Ho!! On Christmas Day, God’s promise was fulfilled.

    The takeaway from the second reading:

    The first reading focussed on the first coming of our Lord Jesus and the second reading and the Gospel reading focussed on the Second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here, the Apostle Paul talks about pleasing Jesus, “You should conduct yourselves to please God and as you are conducting yourselves you do so even more.”

    What does “more” indicate?
    “More” tells us that we need to be more fruitful, i.e. being a blessing for more and more people. But how can we be more fruitful in our daily life? We are already doing our best, being responsible and it fills up our whole day. What more can we do for God?

    Answer: John 15:2 ->
    He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
    God our Father is the gardener; Jesus is the tree; we are the branches in the tree. When we are trying to bear fruit or already bearing fruits, God will prune us so that we will be able to bear more and more fruits. The pruning process is required, which though may be painful, is beneficial. Pruning is better than being cut from the tree. For example, when God’s spirit left King Saul, an evil spirit tormented him…

    So we should never lament when we undergo the process of pruning. In Proverbs we read, ‘A father who spares the rod, spoils the child’. Same in our case also. Since God is our loving Father, it is safe to undergo pruning in His hands. The worst situation is being cut off from our Almighty Father. We should rejoice when we are getting pruned by our Almighty Father!!

    The takeaway from the Gospel reading:
    Our Lord Jesus begins the season of His first coming (Advent) by describing about His second coming: “There will signs in the sun, moon and the stars. Seas will roar. Nations will be in anguish. People will faint from terror. But you guys will stand calm and cool”.

    Isn’t it a nice way to begin His first coming season, full of hopes for His second coming?

    Though we were not able to witness His first coming, we will be able to witness His second coming. When our Lord Jesus comes in His glory, we will be standing happily with heads erect, witnessing the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will be enjoying boundless joy!! We will receive the rewards for the fruit of our work. Our mansions will be ready and we will be able to be in the wonderful mansion which our Lord Jesus Christ has built for us. We will be entering Heaven through the city gates of pearl, walking through golden streets, enjoying the company of all saints, chatting with angels, and above all our spirits eternally united with God our Father Almighty!!

    This is not just till the year 2025 or 2100 or 3000, but it has no end!!

    If we are preparing for the celebration of Christmas by buying new clothes, preparing new snacks, how much more we should be preparing for the celebration of His second coming?

    Today’s Gospel reading asks us to ensure that our heart is not weighed down with sinful pleasures and worries, instead our hearts should be lifted up to God.

    Sinful pleasures:
    Our Lord Jesus is not saying we are to be unhappy and avoid any enjoyment in our life. In 1 Timothy 6:17 -> we read, “… God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” God was the first to provide us with enjoyment by providing pleasures in the creation itself. The flowing waters, breeze, varieties of fruits and vegetables to eat, flowers to admire and smell, animals to play with, all came in as a packaged gift from God. Apart from all these, the divine experience of being with God is an incomparable pleasure. Once we experience the presence of Almighty God any other pleasure will not be equal to it.

    Jesus was traveling here and there in the boat with His disciples. We can picture Him being happy with His disciples. In the house of Zacchaeus can we imagine a sorrowful Jesus. Jesus threw a big party after sharing the word of God, by feeding more than 5000 people. When Jesus was there, His people were filled with joy.

    We can also seek pleasures, but only divine pleasures. It will give us lots of peace and joy after enjoying these pleasures too.
    On the other hand, sinful pleasures will make us feel guilty, spoil our health, lose our peace, finance and will make us feel more sorrowful than before.

    Worries:
    The second item Jesus says is that we should not allow our heart to be weighed down worries. Let us think about our Lord Jesus. He was growing in understanding and awareness that He had to be crucified, hanged, and suffer a terrible death. He grew up with this understanding. He knew that He had to carry the sins of the whole world, else no one could reach heaven and be with Almighty God. So He was not worried about it, He was actually longing for it.

    Similarly, our cross will also satisfy the purpose of our existence in this world. Jesus keeps saying, ‘do not worry’, ‘do not fear’ again and again in the scriptures. Our Heavenly Father will take care of us. So let us not worry about carrying our daily crosses.

    Gate of Heaven:
    In Mathew 7:13-14, Jesus says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
    A wide path is a path living according to one’s own feelings. It has enough room for allowing sinful pleasures to get through. It is living with no concerns for God and His people.
    A narrow path is a path living according to God’s words. This path allows divine pleasures and pressures (pressure to do the right thing even when it is difficult to do).

    Tips for entering through the narrow gate:

    1. Say the divine mercy chaplet daily meditating on the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus promised to Saint Faustina that His mercy would cover those who recite this chaplet.

    2. Jesus says in today’s Gospel that all is well prepared for the day of the second coming, do not be taken by surprise. Some people think that we can continue living an immoral life now, and at the time of death we can ask for forgiveness. Then our Lord Jesus will forgive in the same way He had forgiven the good thief. But our Lord Jesus cautions in today’s Gospel – the day will be unexpected. So we will not have time even to recall that we should ask for forgiveness from our Lord. As our Lord Jesus says let us be alert and be doers of the Word of God.

    3. We cannot live by what we think and what we want. It is using God’s word as a mirror in which our imperfections can be clearly seen. For example, God’s word says, “Honour your father and mother”. If we are shouting at them or not taking care of them in their old age, then we need to start speaking sweetly with them and taking care of their requirements.

    4. Saint Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel always. Whenever it is required use words”. So our life should be preaching (life-giving message) for people around us. People have not seen Jesus as a human person. So when we are caring towards others, people will be able to see Jesus in us. When people are not able to pray, let us not scold them for why they are not praying. We should pray for them. God will answer our prayers by making them pray.

    5. All of us need to live bearing good fruits. Fruits are pleasing to God. When we bear little fruit, God our Father will prune us to bear more fruits.
    Let us follow easy steps, to begin with. We will start with appreciating people. Appreciate people wherever and whenever it is possible. Keep on the lookout for opportunities to appreciate people. It does not cost us much, but we cannot say how much it will be a motivation for them.

    Jesus is eagerly waiting to see us clothed in new white clothes at His second coming!! Let us happily get ready for it!!

  2. Joe O'Leary

    First Sunday of Advent…

    Learning from Israel

    In Advent we step back to the landscape of the Hebrew Bible, to recover our bearings and to understand afresh what it means to have a Messiah. The Hebrew Bible maps a great space of hope, and to embrace that space we need to declutter our lives of all the inessential things that fill them up and suffocate us. Not only the moral trash, or time-wasting pastimes and curiosity, but even the good things that demand and disperse our energies and prevent us from practising singleness of purpose.

    In Advent we rediscover the importance of the First Covenant, which directs us unerringly to the Living God of Israel, and which trains us in the fundamental attitudes of faith and hope. It is often because we slight that first covenant that our grasp of the covenant sealed in the blood of Christ becomes narrow or abstract or unreal. As we prepare to celebrate his coming we must wait for him where he actually appeared, in Israel’s great space of hope. The prophets were passionate for righteousness, and angry at the triumph of rich and powerful people who were rich and powerful. The triumph of evil was enabled by the spinelessness, indifference, or lack of empathy of the multitude, and the prophets constantly sought to sensitize our conscience. The scandal of triumphant evil, impotent good, and divine silence in face of the resultant catastrophes remains the greatest obstacle to faith today as it was in ancient Israel. The modern critique of religion from Voltaire to Dawkins adds little to this basic scandal, to which the last century and the present one have added new chapters of horrors. But was God silent? His voice resounds in the desert and in the hearts of those who make space to hear it. Stepping back to Israel we commit to playing our daily part in the eternal battle of good and evil, confident that God is on our side.

    The hope of Israel found a galvanizing focal point in the figure of the Messiah, the son of David, sometimes imaged as a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven to establish justice on earth. To understand the meaning of Christ it is good to meditate on these biblical conceptions of the Messiah. Theologians today puzzle over the question, ‘Why do we need a Saviour, and from what?’ Such a question would have puzzled the prophets, for they registered the full depth of human woe, and clung to God as their sole refuge. All the various promises by which God replied to their longing for salvation, notably the promise of a Messiah, deserve to be gratefully recalled in the Advent season, so that we can refresh our understanding of what is at stake in the mission of Jesus of Nazareth, prophetic teacher and healer, but more than that, the very embodiment of promised salvation: ‘For all the promises of God are “Yes” in him’ (2 Cor 1:20).

    This is why the church takes us back to the founding Israelite experience for the first month of every liturgical year, encouraging us to renew our contact with the path of life that the First Covenant offers. Wholesome and invigorating in itself, this Jewish path is essential for an understanding of our Jewish Saviour, who fulfils it but in no way supersedes it. We used to say, with St Bernard, ‘per Mariam ad Iesum, through Mary to Jesus,’ but we should also say ‘per Israelem ad Iesum, through Israel to Jesus.’ She stands at the threshold of the Gospel, as the embodiment of Israel’s hope, along with the Baptist. They are our models of a wise emptying and clearing of the space of hope, in humility and simplicity of life, so that Christ can enter in.

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