06 December. Thursday of Advent, Week 1

1st Reading: Isaiah 26:1-6

A hymn of confidence in the Lord, our everlasting rock

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace – in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

Responsorial Psalm — Ps 117:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27

R./: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Give thanks to the Lord for he is good
for his love has no end.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in men:
it is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes. (R./)
Open to me the gates of holiness:
I will enter and give thanks.
This is the Lord’s own gate
where the just may enter
I will thank you for you have given answer
and you are my saviour. (R./)
O Lord, grant us salvation;
O Lord, grant success.
Blessed in the name of the Lord is he who comes.
We bless you from the house of the Lord;
the Lord God is our light. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Concluding the Sermon on the Mount: the wise person builds on rock

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. . .
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell – and great was its fall!”


A strong city

Today’s readings talk about building something valuable, that is meant to last. In Isaiah it is God who builds our city, setting up walls and ramparts to protect us; in the Gospel it is we ourselves who, with God’s help, build the house of our own destiny, founding it on solid rock. While Isaiah populates the city of God with all people who keep faith and are of steadfast mind, Jesus promises salvation to whoever does the will of my Father in heaven.  The prophet emphasises faith while Our Lord calls for action! There is a line in the passage from Isaiah to harmonise these divergent views : “Our Lord is an eternal rock.”
Trusting in God is a continuous theme with Isaiah. Today he says: “Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock.”  He will surround the faithful as he does the holy city with “walls and ramparts.” God is the rock which sustains us. He is the Holy One, encamped within us.  If there is a clash of images here, it means that the Lord is behind and before us, around about us and within us, as was echoed in St. Patrick’s Loricum, or Breastplate. “Christ be before me, Christ be behind me..” etc

Riding out the storm

The weather imagery used in today’s gospel is seasonally suitable, “Rains came down, floods rose, gales blew.” As we know, extreme weather conditions are being reported more frequently in recent years. Apart from actual wind and rain, we can encounter social and emotional storms of a different kind no matter where in the world we live. Our Catholic church has been through quite a storm of controversy in recent years, about the abuse of children and vulnerable adults; and the after-effects of this are still painfully present. As individuals, we can find ourselves battling against the elements of life, as we struggle for one reason or another, to keep our balance in life.
Jesus warned that stormy times will indeed come for all of us. The question is how are we equipped to deal with them. When those crises come will we find ourselves tossed about helplessly, or is there a way to be purified by the storm and then move through and beyond it? Jesus is our rock when the storm comes. If we listen to him and continue to trust him we will be able to ride out the storm and get on with life. Jesus shows us how to survive and thrive: by doing of God’s will as he has revealed it. With his word as our anchor, the Lord will see to it that we endure, regardless of how wildly the storms may blow.


(Saint Nicholas, bishop)

Nicholas (Nikolaos, 270-343) was bishop of Myra in Lycia, southern Turkey. Because of many miracles attributed to him, he was known as a Thaumaturgos (wonderworker). He was famous for secret gift-giving, and so became the model for Santa Claus, a contraction of “Saint Nicholas”. In 1087, some of the saint’s relics were taken to Bari, southern Italy; since then he is also known as Nicholas of Bari.

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