1st. Sunday Of Advent – Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
We all need Advent, particularly at the start of a new liturgical cycle. It is a new start for all of us on our difficult journey of faith.
It once again reminds us forcibly that our precious time is slipping away, the things of this world are passing away; while at our doorstep is the ‘stream of eternal life’ bearing riches and happiness beyond imagining.
All three readings for this Sunday focus on ‘Vigilance’, seen, as we have tried to explain, not as an agonizing wait for the Lord/Judge at the end of our lives, but as the attention to every coming of the Lord today.
The first reading tells us of the new world that will begin with the coming of the Lord.
The second reading invites us to open our eyes to discern the signs of the new day, which has dawned already.
The Gospel urges us to be vigilant in order to receive him at his “Advent”.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden. In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
When Isaiah uttered this prophecy, his country, the kingdom of Judah, was preparing for a great war. The whole nation, in particular ,the capital Jerusalem, was in danger of being destroyed. The situation was very dramatic and everybody was in a state of great fear. Amidst the general terror, Isaiah began speaking of a wonderful future. This was against every form of human logic: ‘Jerusalem, far from being destroyed, was to become the centre of the world’. It was going to be the starting point of a movement towards universal peace.
In this first reading, the prophet Isaiah shares with us his inspired vision of the end-time. Despite the blaring boasts of secular powers sounding from mountain strongholds, he sees that in the long run only God will prevail. It is more about the ‘messianic age’ than about the person of the Messiah and his achievements. Its message is clear and comforting: ‘God has plans, plans for peace that include all the peoples of the earth. Something wonderful is going to happen and everybody will benefit from it’.
There are two important lessons for us in this reading that opens the Church’s year. Firstly, it is clear that the nations of the world have not yet beaten their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. In fact, we seem to be spending more and more of our resources on weapons of destruction. How unrealistic the vision of Isaiah seems especially during this Advent when violence, crime and war still prevail! Yet Isaiah’s messages were proclaimed in a no less difficult time, when the nation was threatened with total destruction. We today, with faith and hope, are still waiting for the fulfilment of God’s plan, still looking forward to the completion of what God had promised. Secondly, it is God who will bring this about. The ‘days to come’ that the prophet speaks about have already come, his promises have begun to be fulfilled from the very first day of the birth of Christ. This Advent let us not miss this opportunity to walk in God’s new light.
Psalm 122:1-2, 4-5.
The Psalm is a song, which pilgrims obeying the Law to go up to Jerusalem would sing on their safe arrival. We are reminded of the need to pray for the ‘peace of Jerusalem’ (a need that is still very much with us today). Correspondingly in the first reading the prophet Isaiah has a vision of all nations of the earth streaming towards the ‘Lord’s mountain in Jerusalem’ to learn about the God of Israel and his ways. Turning to the Lord will lead us to give up our warlike ways and to convert our weapons into agricultural implements. These symbols express the desired relationship between spiritual vision, God’s grace and human conduct!
Paul in Romans concludes his exhortation on Christian conduct. Christians, thanks to Christ live in peace with God; their behaviour is to reflect this status of ‘new life’. Paul’s words echo sermons addressed to the newly baptized in the first years of Christianity. Paul uses the imagery of ‘light and darkness’, common in the New Testament and argues from the common belief of the time that the ‘Second Coming of Christ’ was imminent. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers… put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We shall miss the opportunity unless we know that: and we must start to behave in appropriate ways. As we start to move through Advent, let us make the best of the present moment.
Matthew 24: 37-44.
The Gospel passage of today makes rather difficult reading: Misunderstanding it will produce fanciful interpretations of the end of the world. All such interpretations have their origin in the failure to understand the ‘apocalyptic literary genre’, widely used at the time of Jesus, but rather foreign to us today. We shall try to see through this kind of language so as to understand what Jesus wants to tell us. The Gospel is in itself. “Good News”, a proclamation of joy and hope”. If anyone reads in it a message of fear, terror, anguish; be assured that they are far from the true meaning of the text.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives a warning: “As the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” Everyone laughed as Noah built the Ark. What was the story of Noah all about? In a generation that did not care about God, Noah is singled out as one who found favour in God’s eyes. We are not told how he pleased God. Perhaps he simply dared to be different from the others in the way he lived. He along with his family and a pair of every living species are the only ones saved from the flood. When the floodwaters recede, Noah makes an offering to God and God blesses him and his family and makes a covenant with them.
Some ‘fundamentalist’ Christians tend to take such stories as historical fact and so often miss the point. We must not take them literally. The whole point is in the ‘meaning’ of the story. It teaches us that we were created to have a ‘relationship’ with God, our Creator. If we do not respect God, ‘we destroy ourselves and God’s creation’. Jesus uses this story in the ‘final discourse about the end-time’ to compare his time with that of Noah. In Noah’s time nobody expected a flood to destroy the world and so people refused to change how they lived. Likewise, the worldly-wise today give us a pitying laugh as we go about announcing God’s reign. But we hear again these words of Jesus: “Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” As always the choice is ours. We can let ourselves be lulled by the dull, monotonous sounds of the marketplace in our secular society or we can ‘sit up, take notice, repent’ and follow the way of Christ.
This ‘Advent season of Waiting’ means that we need to acknowledge the truth and the ways of righteousness and bring these into our lives. It is a time to intensify our search for God – in our reflective listening to his word, in our quiet times by ourselves, and in our compassionate service and love to those in need. Jesus comes to us not only at the end of the world but every day, in every circumstance of our lives. But all too often we miss the opportunity of welcoming him and ‘being with him and in him’. We expect God to manifest himself in spectacular ways like signs and miracles. But this is not the way that Jesus comes to us. He invites us to see him in the people and the events of each day: in our family and in our friends, in the poor and the sick that we meet, in the people that cross our paths each and every day. The only way to secure the future is to care about the present. Because we care for the world the Lord has given us, we must stay awake, be aware of what is happening in it, good and evil. Let us be vigilant, on the watch and attentive to God. Let us tell God each and every day of Advent that we need and depend on him for our ‘New Beginning’.
“All human effort is ‘incomplete’ without God”.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 1st Sunday of Advent Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Isaiah’s message is clear and comforting. God has plans, plans for peace and justice that include all the peoples of the world. No matter what, we must have faith and trust in God and never despair.
Mon. … We still seem to be spending more and more resources on weapons of destruction than on promoting peace and improving the living conditions of the poor. Whilst our forefingers are clearly pointing to the governments of this world we seem to forget about the three fingers pointing back at us. What are we doing to promote peace and love in this world? How are we contributing to the upliftment of the poor?
Tue. … The kingdom of God on this earth is growing and its expansion depends upon the love and compassion we have for our neighbour. It is only when all people accept ‘God’s guidance’ that universal peace will come to this world. This Advent let us kick-start this process by walking in the ‘new light’ of Christ.
Wed. … In the second reading Paul concludes his exhortation on Christian conduct. If we honour God’s ways, we honour one another. This Advent let us move out of the darkness of self, beyond cynicism and resentment into the ‘light of love’.
Thur. … As a circle begins and ends at the same point, the liturgical year begins and ends at the ‘Final Judgement’. God is the ‘beginning and the end’, the ‘Alpha and the Omega’. All time belongs to him and all the ages. The ‘Advent Wreath’ represents the circle of life’s journey from God as ‘Creator’ to God as ‘Final Destiny’. ‘Evergreen leaves’ express our faith, hope and trust in God’s everlasting love and mercy. Have you set up your Advent Wreath to travel this spiritual journey?
Frid. … Jesus gives his advice before his passion: it’s as if he himself is aware that he does not have all the time in the world. The only way to secure the future is to care about the present. We are all responsible for the world we live in; we are not passive victims of the inevitable. Peace begins in our hearts and comes to fulfillment in our actions. We too do not have all the time in the world.
Sat. … The word of God, which will accompany us during the Advent period, tells us that Jesus has not come just once. He keeps coming whenever we need him.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Heavenly Father, help us to pull down the barriers we have built up. We pray that we must not be divided by any obstacle that cuts us off from Christ and each other. We pray that we may be vigilant and keep our eyes; ears and hearts open during Advent.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.
Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.