1st Sunday of Advent: Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Raise Your Heads, Your Liberation Is Close At Hand!”
“Advent” means “coming” and the three readings of this first Sunday of Advent speak of comings, the “Lord’s coming”.
In the first reading God promises to send an “upright branch” of the family of David, who will establish peace in the world.
The second reading is an invitation to live in expectation of the “coming” of Christ, and tells us that the Lord can be received and welcomed only by those who hold sentiments of love in their hearts toward the members of their community.
In the Gospel it is Jesus, the son of David announced by the prophets, who speaks of a new world, born from the world of evil; he also tells us how we should live as we await the full manifestation of this new world.
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.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Each church year ends with a vision of the Apocalypse and the new one begins in Advent with the same vision of world-shattering events. Since birth and death both plunge us into territory we cannot anticipate, and robs us of the familiar, it seems to make sense that time itself begins and ends in chaos.
To the people of Jerusalem, besieged in 588 BC by the Babylonian armies, Jeremiah offered a message of restoration. How strange, then, to find Jeremiah (of all prophets!) in a peaceful interlude. He predicts a time of safety and security, a time of justice and right. Though he writes to a people doomed by exile, he affirms God’s promise to lift them up.
The prophet, for his part, has not compared the beginning of this kingdom to a great tree; he spoke of an ‘upright branch’. We know that a seed will take years to develop into a tree. The growth of a plant is a slow process and our eyes cannot detect the small changes that take place day by day. We must not get discouraged and impatient because radical transformations do not take place. We must try to understand the logic of the kingdom of God. The “just shoot” of David, we understand, will be the descendent of David we anticipate this season. Jeremiah’s prophecy is pronounced six centuries before the birth of Jesus. In our time, we await the day of justice and right when the kingdom of God is established in our midst.
Today’s first reading is a prediction of hope, a proclamation intended to rekindle positive expectations about God’s plans for those who had come back to their homeland. The voice of the Lord speaks of the days that are coming, an ambiguous future, but a sure one. (God is not offering his hearers a calendar here, but encouragement). Then God reminds them of a promise he had made to David (cf. 2 Samuel 7:11-16) that the house, i.e., the family of David would rule God’s people forever.
When the time comes for that promise to be fulfilled, God says, a righteous descendent of David will appear who will do what is right in the land and bring security to God’s people. The reading does not offer a detailed account of the Davidic messiah, or specifics of the time and circumstances of his coming. But they do call us to hope, and to have confidence in the Lord’s faithfulness to his promises.
Today’s reading serves to remind us of the basics of God’s messianic plans and calls men and women of our time to hope and confidence, just as it called men and women of post-exile Jerusalem to hope and confidence. The ‘upright branch’ of David awaited by the Jews has come already and we know him; he is ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. The kingdom of ‘justice and peace’ has begun with him which we anticipate again this Advent season.
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14.
The Psalm combines a consciousness of the faithfulness and love of God, as revealed in the covenant at Sinai (Ex 34:6-7), with a realization that without the wisdom that comes only from God, truly ‘human’ life is impossible.
1 Thessalonians 3:12–4:2.
This passage was chosen for the first Sunday in Advent because it says, “Our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” and explains how we should prepare for his coming. Addressing the Christians of Thessalonica, Paul admits that many are good, but prays that the Lord may increase and enrich their love for each other.
This is the path leading to holiness and it is the only vigilant way of awaiting the coming of the Lord, our Saviour. Perhaps reciprocal relations in our communities are already good, but it is always possible to improve them. Can’t we also get over the existing misunderstandings and tensions that put strain on our relationships? Can the search for ‘reciprocal love’ that Paul recommends to the Thessalonians be really substituted by other interests and devotions?
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36.
By the time Luke wrote his Gospel, the expectation of an early ‘second coming’ of Christ had receded, and although persecution for the young Church was a reality, it took the form of a general hostility to a strange and new religion rather than an attempt to exterminate it. This background is reflected in his account of Jesus’ own words about his ‘second coming’, which we heard two weeks ago in Mark’s version.
The events of the ‘End’ are described in the same strong apocalyptic language we find in Mark, a language that stresses the sovereignty of God over the whole of his creation. Luke abbreviates the Old Testament references to the sun, the moon and the stars, and concentrates on this earth and to the human beings spread over it. This is consistent with the universal nature of this Gospel, which is to be preached to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Today’s Gospel reading comes from the last parts of the Gospel of Luke. We may have expected to deal with the birth of Christ, as Advent is a time to prepare for it. In fact the reading is about his ‘Second Coming’. Jesus warns his disciples to be ready to meet their Master. Jesus quotes Dn. 7:13 where the victorious ‘Son of Man’ comes on the clouds. In the Bible the ‘cloud’ is a very common sign of the ‘Divine Presence’ among his people, called in Hebrew ‘Shekhinah’.
Jesus, the ‘Son of Man’, is only a weak human being but he is coming on a cloud, i.e. with the ‘power of God’. We must remember that Jesus pronounces this speech in Jerusalem shortly before the people in power make him suffer and kill him. To most people the religious leaders seem victorious. However, in the ‘Resurrection of Jesus’, God has the last word and he is the One who is really victorious.
To the persecuted Christians, it also seemed that the world is falling apart and they are afraid and tempted to shy away from showing that they belong to Jesus. But if God is victorious in the life of Jesus, the follower of Jesus has every reason to believe that God will be victorious in his or her struggles to be a ‘true witness’ of Jesus.
Jesus uses apocalyptic language to invite all his hearers to have the courage to face the agitation of our world of today. The many different catastrophes such as ethnic wars, airplane accidents, ships sinking, earthquakes and floods claiming innocent lives, etc., could make us despair and give up trying to meet him altogether. We live in a world that seems to be disintegrating and is losing many of its basic Christian and human values, such as respect for the lives of the weak, and sharing equitably the world’s resources with all.
We may be tempted to accept certain and convenient forms of Christianity that are simply an escape from a world of suffering. However, Jesus reminds us that it is in and through the chaos and shambles of the world that we prepare ourselves to meet him at the end of our personal and common history. As we prepare ourselves for Christmas, we must open our eyes to the massive sufferings in our world today and look at them as the ‘birth pangs’ of a new era. We must commit ourselves to work with God to bring about a new world.
Jesus invites us to be on the alert for the Master’s return. The attitude of being watchful is what helps us progress in life and to avoid the pitfalls on the way to encounter the Lord. Though the second coming could be far off in the future, it is not to be forgotten. The Word that they had heard was not to be choked by the cares of life, nor overwhelmed like the steward in the parable, by the debauchery and drunkenness so prevalent in those days.
The ‘day’ would come without warning; our preparation for it must be a life of watchfulness and prayer. Jesus taught about the need to pray always and, like the first disciples and Mary, had given us the example of ‘watchful perseverance’. Our Christian faith leads us to trust in the promises of the Lord. Our Christian hope leads us to look forward to their fulfilment.
In the midst of our vulnerability, God comes as the most vulnerable of all, a newborn child. Stand erect and raise your heads. Our redemption is at hand.
‘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 to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 1st Sunday of Advent Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … It is almost a human trait that when we encounter stories and visions of the ‘Apocalypse’ and when terrible and shocking circumstances plunge us into feelings of total helplessness, we seem to despair and anticipate a hopeless end for all humanity. We tend to lose all hope and trust in God and in the future. In today’s first reading the prophet gives his listeners ‘new promises’ of restoration.
Mon. … In Scripture, God reminds us all of a promise he made to David that the ‘House of David’ would rule God’s people forever (2 Sam 7:11-16). When the time comes for that promise to be fulfilled a righteous descendent of David will appear and will do what is right and just in the land and bring security to God’s people.
Tues. … The ‘upright branch’ of David awaited by the Jews has already come and we know him. He is Jesus of Nazareth and he has shown us the ‘Way’, the ‘Truth’ and the ‘Life’. We anticipate his ‘coming’ into our hearts again this Advent Season. What preparations must we make? Will we meet him with open hearts? Will we adore him as our Messiah? Will we be true witnesses to him?
Wed. … The Psalm reminds us of the faithfulness and the love of God, the Father. We need to realize that without his grace of love, healing and wisdom, true holiness is impossible for us to achieve. We cannot achieve our own salvation. Let us pray today for his grace that we may always do his will and in doing so we may start to become holy, the person he wishes us to become.
Thur. … In the second reading Paul explains how we should prepare for the Lord’s coming. He says, “Following the path leading to holiness is the only vigilant way of awaiting the ‘Coming of our Saviour’. Paul recommends ‘reciprocal love’. Can you imagine any other act or devotion more suited to the season of Advent?
Frid. … We live in a world that seems to be falling apart and losing many of its basic Christian and human values. In today’s Gospel Jesus’ apocalyptic language invites his listeners and us to have the courage to face up to the trials and tribulations we encounter in the world each day. Jesus reminds us that it is in and through such trials and by bearing our crosses that we prepare ourselves as true persevering Christians to meet him face to face.
Sat. … As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the season of the ‘First Coming’ of Jesus, we are reminded that true Christians shape their faith in love, trust and hope. In a world where peace and justice seem so illusive, we must never let hope die and must persevere to the end. By expressing our hope in love for one another, we will create the start of the ‘promise of the future’. In our love for Christ, let us become a Simon of Cyrene for others this Advent.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Almighty God and Father, the people of Israel hoped in Your promises and were not disappointed. In Jesus you have given us the promise of salvation. We believe in Your promise to send Jesus once again, this time to judge the world and to establish His kingdom upon the earth forever. Come, Lord Jesus, into our homes and our hearts. We want to prepare Your way, and we long for Your light to shine in our daily lives.
You live and reign with the Father 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”.