First Sunday Of Advent
This weekend, the Church begins Advent. It begins the use of biblical readings from Year B of its three-year cycle.
It also is the start of a new liturgical year. Each liturgical year is carefully planned so that the seasons and the major feasts guide us, through our very own worship, to a closer relationship with God in Christ.
The first reading is from the third section of Isaiah, composed when the Jews were in a quite difficult situation. Years before, the exiles had been allowed to return to the Holy Land from Babylon, but this return brought the exiles home to no paradise. Life was miserable.
The prophet called for faith in God, not only as almighty, but as unfailingly true to the covenant, to the divine pledge that God would protect the chosen people.
The prophet appealed to God, in the name of the people, for relief. He did not say God was treating the people unfairly or putting them in a place of anguish and want. Instead, the prophet made clear that sin led the people away from God and that this estrangement produced their woes.
Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians provides the next reading. Counseling the Christians of Corinth challenged St. Paul. Not only did temptation and vice surround them at every side, but they also argued among themselves. Paul had to call them to faithfulness, and additionally, he had to try to influence them to put their differences with each other aside.
He saw unity among disciples as having great religious potential. He saw unity as possible, if despite all odds produced by their surroundings and the human inclination to sin, they drew themselves more closely to God and therefore to each other. Then, they could infuse the goodness of Christianity into the circles in which they moved.
St. Mark’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. It offers us a theme found quite often in the New Testament, namely that Christ will come to earth again as the great victor and the judge of all creation.
When the Gospels were written, certainly in the case of the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four as they now exist, Christians were numerous enough and geographically distributed enough to catch the public eye, but not numerous enough or powerful enough to withstand their enemies. The culture was an enemy.
Soon, the political system would be an enemy. Professing Christianity became a capital crime, as the martyrs were horribly to know.
Understandably, the atmosphere was tense, uncertain, and frightening. Thoughts of the second coming naturally were appealing. Jesus would come again, but they did know not when. Neither do we.
In the meantime, they had to acknowledge God, live in God’s law, and trust in their reward. So do we.
The formal prayers of the Mass are the united statements of all believers, spoken with, and by, the celebrant, to proclaim our faith but also our trust in Almighty God.
We speak with the priest, but are we speaking with the voice of faith? Are we sincere? Are we good Catholics? When the priest prays the Orations at Mass, do we join him, prompted by a genuinely authentic faith? Bluntly, are we absolutely committed to Christ?
Mark’s Gospel assists us to have solid faith and to believe that only God is permanent and real.
Advent is an opportunity to achieve union with God, to realize that God’s love for us is also real.
If we respond to the opportunity given to us by Advent, then Christmas becomes not a national holiday, or even a holy religious commemoration, but the moment when we encounter God, firmly believing that Jesus will come again, but also believing that here and now we know the Lord.
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