Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

Dear All,

Today is the beginning of a new Liturgical Year.  We are starting a new cycle, Year B as it is designated in the Roman Lectionary.  Throughout the year we will be reading from the shortest of the three Synoptic Gospels, according to Mark.  This Gospel is only about twenty five pages long.  We may want to consider during the Advent Season to take an hour, sit down and read it from end to end.  It won’t take any longer and it will give you an overview of most from which we will be reading and reflecting upon throughout this liturgical year.

We begin this new Liturgical Year with the season of Advent, a time of anticipation, time of preparation, getting ready.  During the First Advent Sunday we light the candle of hope on the advent wreath.  Advent comes from the Latin Adventus, meaning arrival.  We remember and commemorate the arrival of Christ two millennia ago, as well as preparing ourselves for the eschatological (see the November 23, 2008 article) theme of Christ’s second coming at the end of times. Last Sunday we heard about the final judgment.  In this season of Advent we learn how to prepare ourselves for it and in today’s liturgy we express our longing for the Kingdom to come. Isaiah, in our First Reading, looking at the situation of his day expressed vividly: Return Lord, so we can see your presence at work in us.  The Prophet’s words of the 8th century BC are still valid today.  The “Thy kingdom come” petition of the Our Father is of special significance.

In Mark’s Gospel Jesus tells us to be on our guard and to be ready for the day of final judgment because we do not know when it will come. All we do know is that the Master will certainly come and that we must prepare ourselves to be ready to greet him.  Because 2000 years have gone by since the time of Christ we tend to think that we will not see the Last Day in our earthly life.  However, one thing that we can be absolutely certain about is that we will die.  We hope with all our hearts that when we meet God and experience judgment, Christ will find us worthy on that great day of days.  Only hoping could be in vain.  Therefore we should consider doing something about it.  Jesus tells his disciples, and us, to be alert and get ready.  In other words, sorting ourselves out is not something that we should leave till tomorrow.  Our moral weaknesses, like tendencies towards failures in our relationships, telling untruths, dishonesty, correcting other people’s mistakes, etc., etc. should all be dealt with rather sooner than later.  We know that sin is like a bad stain on our clothes, the longer we leave it untreated the harder it is to remove.  It contaminates and pollutes our lives.  It is not only a question of being on our guard against new sins, but also to repent and make amends for all those old ones.  We are, however, especially blessed because we live in a Christian community where all are striving for holiness.  We are all aiming in the same direction and there is strength in numbers, making it far easier for us to grow in holiness together rather than alone and isolated.

If we’re thinking to be too old to renew yourself, consider these statistics: George Burns won an Oscar at 80; Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel at 71; Michelangelo was 71 when he painted the Sistine chapel; Albert Schweitzer was performing surgery at 89.  Do we still think we're too old?  

Yesterday we are told is a memory… tomorrow but a dream. Today is a gift, the only time on which eternity depends, that is why we call it present.  Which brings us to the third meaning of Jesus’ coming… in our everyday life.  Either by relating to (feeding, clothing, welcoming, treating, visiting, etc.) the least of his brethren, like he told us in last Sunday’s Gospel (of the sheep and goats) or by being the least one to others for them to encounter Jesus in us.

The Readings for the First Advent speak about:

The Prophet Isaiah says in the First Reading that without God our natural inclination would be to drift away from him and become proud and independent.

The apostle Paul, who expected to experience Christ’s second coming during his lifetime, in his letter to the Corinthians, invites them to be thankful for so many teachers that are actively witnessing to their faith in Christ.  His prayer for the Corinthians and also for us is that God will keep us steady and faithful until the last day.

Mark’s Gospel today encourages us to live in expectation of good things, as they will come - for we will create them and to watch for the signs for the reign of God which we will see – for we will be a sign of that reign.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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