27 Nov 2022 – 1st Sunday in Advent, A

27 Nov 2022 – 1st Sunday in Advent, A

1st Reading: Isaiah 2:1-5

A happy future for all who seek the truth and work for peace

The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it.

Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Responsorial: Psalm 121: 1-2, 4-5, 6-9

R./: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

I rejoiced when I heard them say:
‘Let us go to God’s house.’
And now our feet are standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem. (R./)

It is there that the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord. For Israel’s law it is,
there to praise the Lord’s name.
There were set the thrones of judgement
of the house of David. (R./)

For the peace of Jerusalem pray:
‘Peace be to your homes!
May peace reign in your walls,
in your palaces, peace!’ (R./)

For love of my brethren and friends I say:
‘Peace upon you!’
For love of the house of the Lord
I will ask for your good. (R./)

2nd Reading: Romans 13:11-14

We are to wake from sleep and put on the armour of light

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy.

Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

We must make ready for the day when Christ will come again

For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.


Another Advent

What’s another year? was the name of a song that won the Eurovision Song Contest long ago! Today we start another liturgical new year, with the songs of Isaiah singing the praise of Advent. Our year of prayer will carry through to Christmas, then on to Jesus’ Public life, then Lent and Holy Week and the drama of Easter and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Then our time moves towards next Advent, when another year of liturgical prayer begins. This rhythm and pattern can be a blessing for us, providing a spiritual framework of meaning for all the bits and pieces of daily living, during the different seasons. The liturgical year can help us keep our lives grateful and centred on God.

We begin this season of Advent in a spirit of expectation. During this time we look forward not just to the birthday of Jesus at Bethlehem but also for his second coming at the end of time!

Here’s an instance of a woman with something to teach us this Advent. Before we had cell phones or WhatsApp or Voicemail, we depended on the humble landline. There was a mother in Mayo whose son in New York used to phone her up at eight o’clock every Sunday evening. As it neared the time her eyes were fixed on the telephone. No call in or out was allowed as she waited! She would not miss the joy of hearing her son’s voice and all his news. That woman was a model for our spirit of waiting in Advent ! The key attitude is one of being alert, being ready, so as not to miss the time of his coming, ‘you must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’. These words sound like a warning as though God were ready to pounce and catch us off guard with our affairs not in order! But they are also a promise, filled with hope. The coming of the Christ was and is the best of good news, a gift beyond imagining! It calls for joy and gratitude. Our response should be not fear, but awe and wonder. John Betjamen has expressed it beautifully in this Christmas poem:

‘Is it true? and is it true,
this most tremendous tale of all,
a baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
become a child on earth for me,
that God was man in Palestine
and lives today in bread and wine.’

Let’s imagine ourselves in that stable on the first Christmas night. See there a girl from Nazareth with her quiet husband and a new baby. Then go up to Jerusalem and tell the priests what you saw. Say that helpless, newborn baby is the Anointed One, the long awaited Messiah, the Son of God. They would think you were out of your mind; they would accuse you of blasphemy; they would tell you that God is not like that. They have studied the scriptures and they know God cannot be small and vulnerable like that. But the Son of God has chosen to come among us just like that.

That is the great, joyful surprise of our faith. The presence of God among us is not what we expect, not where we expect. That’s how we miss it. As we begin Advent, we are invited not to miss the amazing gift of God. Be awake and look for God in the most unlikely places. Find God’s call to our goodwill in the doorway where the homeless sleep. Look for God’s presence where refugees are corralled. Grace is present not only in comfortable places and spaces! God is looking out from the wrinkled faces of senior citizens. It’s great to be alive and wide-eyed like a child, at the beginning of our new year of grace. We can welcome this time of Advent with a heartfelt céad míle fáilte

Sobering thoughts

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 try to empty our minds of the clutter of the past and when our hearts learn from the Prophets what are the deepest needs in 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 are two deep and growing threats 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 nuclear threat demonstrated its horrific power on the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and has since been enshrined as the status quo, with superpowers threatening each other with mutual destruction. Since 1945 humanity, as well as all plants and animals, have been a hair-trigger away from nuclear extinction, and there have been dozens of lucky, narrow escapes. Noam Chomsky attributed this remarkable record of good luck to divine intervention. The climate-change threat has grown more slowly, like the rising waters of a tsunami, and awareness of it is muddied by a culture of denial, encouraged by commercial interests. Registering the full extent of the danger one is inclined to cry, “Only God can save us now!” We are tempted to ask, “How could God let his creation get into such a dangerous state? Where is Providence in all this?”

3. The consoling hymns of Christmas hardly engage with harsh issues like those we have mentioned. For this we need the more abrasive words of the Prophets, who often spoke up in times of crisis. Their opening words are often laced with doom, while their final words offer hope and consolation. First they try to wake us up and shake us out of our complacency, but they generally end by affirming that all will be resolved by the power and faithfulness of God. Their language is sometimes so deep that we tend to ignore them and focus instead on things that are of little account. But let’s pay special attention to the message of Isaiah, this Advent.


One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    We will do the preparation!! God will give the provision!!

    We are in the preparation time for the birth of our baby Jesus. Let us analyse how two thousand years ago two people prepared for His coming!! Right guess. We will walk with our Mamma Mary and St. Joseph on their days of preparation. Some excerpts are taken from the book, “The Poem of Man-God”.

    St. Joseph was shocked when he came to know that He and Mamma Mary had to go to Bethlehem, when Mamma Mary was about to deliver the baby. Mamma Mary consoled St. Joseph saying that “Isn’t it written that the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem? How great is God’s work? God will take care!!” Mamma Mary was not worried because she trusted God and knew that whatever would happen it was all in God’s plan.

    All the dresses woven for the baby and all other arrangements had to be left then and there. They were not able to carry any check-in baggage. Only a hand baggage of a bag of woollen clothes. They knew they were insufficient for their journey. But they knew God would be the provider!! When we are not able to provide for ourselves, God will miraculously provide for us. They could not do any advance booking for the rooms. When they started they did not know where they would stay. They put the issue into God’s hands. Are there uncertainties in our future When we surrender our uncertainties God will be excited to take care of it as His responsibility.

    They could not afford two donkeys, so that if St. Joseph also came on a donkey, the number of days of their travel would have reduced. St. Joseph walked and walked thinking about how Mamma Mary would be comfortable travelling on the donkey for long hours. He was not able to provide her with more than a donkey. But he knew that God would note her hardships and take care of her much more than what he could do for her.

    Mamma Mary, in the final stage of pregnancy, travelled all the way along, thanking and praising God. Any other woman in that situation would have naturally questioned God, “What wrong did I do in my life to undergo all these? Since you are Almighty You could have better taken care of me instead of allowing me to take up this journey at this stage… ” But Mamma Mary was very excited, as she was doing God’s will. Our sufferings also will become exciting once we know that we are doing God’s will.
    As they were nearing Bethlehem a shepherd boy gives Mamma Mary a cup of milk to drink. Mamma Mary thanks God for the beautiful surprise!!
    God winks at us with little little surprises!!

    They arrive at Bethlehem. Mamma Mary says to St. Joseph, “I really think that the time has come to deliver.” St. Joseph knocks at the door of each inn, looking for a room for Mamma Mary to deliver. Every innkeeper said, “Not available”. He also implores some of the travellers. He points out that they are all healthy men, that there is a woman about to give birth to a child. He begs them to have mercy. But all he gets is their indifference. If there had been no trust in God, St. Joseph would have got a heartache at this stage. He had an inner deep trust that there was somewhere a good place God has destined for us. God is taking us to that place through all these.

    Why did God not allow St.Joseph to get a room in an inn, but He made Him go into a stable? Only because it was a stable, the shepherds were able to get in. If child Jesus was born in an inn, the innkeepers would not have allowed the shepherds in.
    God wants to be in a place accessible to anyone and everyone. 
    He is not a God of a few but a God of everyone!!

    We may wonder why God is not giving us an inn but only a stable. God knows that we will be better in the stable than in an inn. Even the little donkey which carried Mamma Mary and the baby Jesus inside her also found food and water in the stable to eat, drink and take rest. 
    God’s choice is always the best!!

    There was a rich Pharisee who looked at them with obvious contempt and when Mamma Mary went near him, he stepped aside as if he had been approached by a leper. Joseph looks at him and his face blushes with disdain. Mary calmed St. Joseph saying, “Don’t insist. Let us go. God will provide.” 
    When people reject us, we should move on, realising that we are God’s favourites!!

    We see that St. Joseph and Mamma Mary lived their passions and turned them to joy. There was no question from them, “Why, God, why? When God, when?” They only submitted themselves to the will of the Father. The special grace provided to them did not protect them from any hardships. They had to go through the same difficult path like all of us. John the Baptist who was sent solely for preparing people for the first coming of our Lord Jesus said, “Do your work sincerely without any fault like taking bribes and so on.. ”

    So preparation for the second coming of our Lord Jesus is to be committed to complete all our assigned tasks.
    The journey may be hard but beautiful when we trust in God just like St. Joseph and Mamma Mary!!

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