Happy New Year! The Church’s calendar begins today. The word “Advent” means “coming” and starts with a message similar to the theme of last week’s Mass. Be ready and watch for the coming of Jesus. However, it means a little more than just coming; it conveys to us an expectancy within the person waiting. This can be understood in three ways.
First, we anticipate Christ’s advent on Christmas. We go beyond the materialism of the modern world by a focus on the real meaning of the feast: God enters human existence in a totally personal way.
Second, we look forward to Jesus’ arrival in our lives through the blossoming of our faith and the insight we have as pure ‘gift’ to see God’s saving work at hand in Christ within His Word, Sacrament and Community. Thus in a mystical way we bring his body into the world through our union with him also in the communion of saints.
Finally, we speculate on the end of this universe at the conclusion of time. The universe is not self-sustaining. Eventually it will terminate in some sort of extinction. Time is finite. It will reach a culmination either in a vast cataclysm or total dissolution. Then the real universe will begin in God.
So, welcome to Year B! During Advent and Lent, the three Readings in the Liturgy of the Word are linked….see if you can see and hear the links!
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD.
It is very important for us to read God’s Word slowly and reflectively. We are not reading it just to get information or answer questions; we must enable God’s Word to enter us just like liquid polish enters timber that is thirsty for nutrition. A good rule of thumb is to have a question like this in our mind……”Lord, what are you saying to ME in your Word today? Secondly, how can my life be changed, in order to allow God’s Word to find a Home in our being? Finally, as for special Feasts, Advent and Lent, the three Readings are in a sequence which has an underlying thread running through them. In Ordinary time, the First Reading, and the Gospel are bridged…so we generally look for the link.
First Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1.3-8
You, Lord, yourself are our Father, Our Redeemer is your ancient name. Why, Lord, leave us to stray from your ways and harden our hearts against fearing you? Return, for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your inheritance. Oh, that you would tear the heavens open and come down – at your Presence the mountains would melt. No ear has heard, no eye has seen any god but you act like this for those who trust him. You guide those who act with integrity and keep your ways in mind.
You were angry when we were sinners; we had long been rebels against you. We were all like men unclean, all that integrity of ours is like filthy clothing. We have all withered like leaves and our sins blew us away like the wind. No one invoked your name or roused himself to catch hold of you. For you hid your face from us and gave us up to the power of our sins.
And yet, Lord, you are our Father; we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
(Let’s PAUSE and reflect upon the first reading, and let us ask ourselves the two questions stated above. That is our PERSONAL response to the Word. The Psalm and Antiphon is the COMMUNITY response to God’s Word.)
Psalm: Ps 79:2-3. 15-16. 18-19
R. Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face
and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hear us,
shine forth from your cherubim throne.
O Lord, rouse up your might,
O Lord, come to our help. R.
God of hosts, turn again, we implore,
look down from heaven and see,
Visit this vine and protect it,
the vine your right hand has planted. R.
May your hand be on the man you have chosen,
the man you have given your strength.
And we shall never forsake you again:
give us life that we may call upon your name. R.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.
I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
PAUSE again after this Reading and reflect like you did after the first Reading. The Community response is the sung ALLELUIA, or PRAISE TO YOU LORD JESUS CHRIST KING OF ENDLESS GLORY. When we are present at our Sunday Eucharistic Celebration, the Alleluia or Praise be to you…should always be sung. Why? It’s a bit like singing Happy Birthday! We never say it… 🙂
Gospel: Mark 13:33-37
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Reflection time again……. see if you can hear the links, and see the bridges between the three Readings. After that, we are then ready for what is to follow…..
DEEP SEA DIVING INTO THE SCRIPTURES
Focusing the Word
Key words and phrases
Be on your guard.
You never know when the master of the house is coming.
You are our Father; we the clay, you the potter.
We are the work of your hand.
Lord, make us turn to you, let us see your face and we shall be saved.
to the point
At the beginning of the liturgical year we are instructed to look to the end: ‘The master is coming’. We wait and watch for Christ’s coming by being faithful to the work he has given each of us to do.
Connecting the Word
to the first two readings
We are able to do our work because God moulds us like clay (first reading) and keeps us ‘steady and without blame until the last day’ (second reading).
to living our religious experience
As the minutes of our lives (i.e., the watches of the night) tick by, the Lord’s arrival is always unexpected. The work of Christian living is constant watchfulness that discovers the redeeming possibility of every moment.
Understanding the Word
Jesus’ apocalyptic discourse in Mark 13
The thirteenth chapter of Mark’s gospel is frequently called ‘The Little Apocalypse.’ This apocalyptic speech is similar in outlook, language, and expectation to material found in the books of Daniel and Revelation. The apocalyptic worldview distinguishes sharply between the present sinful age and the glorious future age. The ‘age to come’ will be established only after the present world is destroyed in a great, cosmic war which pits evil against good and the righteous against the wicked. In this apocalyptic world there is no middle ground. In such fearful and frightful times the righteous have the advantage of God’s invincible might which will surely and completely annihilate the forces of evil. The present chaos and upheaval serve as signs to the faithful that God is about to come in power, bringing victory, glory, and a new creation. Particularly in the New Testament the frightful and glorious Age to Come is heralded by the coming of the Son of Man.
In Mark 13 Jesus has finally arrived in Jerusalem and he is now seated on the Mount of Olives, opposite the Temple, looking down upon the city of Jerusalem. There, like prophets of old, Jesus speaks of the immediate future. He describes the days ahead in typical, even stock, apocalyptic imagery: there will be war between kingdoms, earthquakes, and famines (13:8), the persecution of the righteous (13:11), false messiahs (13:22), and cosmic signs – ‘sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky’ (13:24-25). This means that the end is at hand: ‘this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place’ (13:30).
These terrifying signs, however, call the elect both to ethical conduct and to hope. With the return of the Son of Man so near, the elect are to keep themselves free from sin lest they be found among the ranks of sinners doomed to destruction; and they are to have hope for the time of their deliverance and victory is at hand. Therefore, ‘Be watchful! Be alert!’
Dear One and All,
Advent is a great time in the Church Year, but it is a bit of a challenge for us here in Australia, and living in the Southern Hemisphere. However, when I was stationed at St.Joseph’s in Hobart, we had three years of white Christmases! When I was stationed overseas, many people said to me that they would find it just so difficult having Christmas in Summer, as well as holidays looming for the kids, and also for many parents as well at Christmas time. In Australia the environment of all the flowers blooming, and the heat….well, for this year we are still waiting for it! I suppose that picks up the Advent theme of waiting….. In the Northern hemisphere, I enjoyed the Advent Liturgical season so much, because the climate etc were in tune, and the desire for the days getting shorter is just so real! I had better stop day dreaming, and get on with it!
Let’s look at the Gospel passage for today. There seems to be an unsettled anticipation to be on the alert, keep watch, we do not know when the Lord will return. He could show up at any tick of the clock! For the Thessalonian Church, St.Paul had to give them a swift reminder not to just sit around and wait, but get on with living the message, or don’t eat! That certainly put some reality into their response to Christ. For the early Church, they had to come to grips with the fact that the Kingdom of God is among them, us, yet not complete till the Lord Jesus comes in Glory. We live in between times….
It seems that there are two messages in the Gospel today. First; we don’t know when the Lord Jesus will return in glory, but it will happen. Second; we have the opportunity to meet Christ everyday in our sisters and brothers, in His proclaimed Word, and in Sacrament. The Gospel today is as relevant today as it was when it was first proclaimed. We cannot rest on our laurels nor have a holiday from the Christian Life. Advent seems to be like the fine tuner that we used to have on our portable Radios; remember the smaller dial underneath the bigger dial for tuning into a station? I think that Advent has allot to do with fine tuning into our responses, to meeting the Lord every day and by doing that, we will be ready when the Lord does come in glory.
Now let us go back to the first reading from the Old Testament. Here we see the Prophet Isaiah, and his community calling out to the Lord God to ‘be with’ His people in a new way! Within this cry, we see a fundamental element of contrition emerge from within Israel…..then there is an acknowledgement of who they are in relation to the Lord God. In short, the faces have changed, but the message remains the same……a true and real contrite heart knows that God is the Potter, and we are the clay, fashioned by the Lord God’s saving hand!
Let’s stay with that metaphor of the Potter, and the clay for a little while. The making of Pottery has always interested me, and in the 1990’s when I was ministering in Israel, and Jordan, I had the fantastic opportunity of seeing a Potter at work at the back of his shop in Amman. It was by a fluke that I called into this shop during the afternoon ‘sleep time’. You see in Jordan, no one has to lock their shops……why? If you steal, and get caught, the family who owns the premises has the right to chop one’s right hand off, ASAP! Yes, I know what it is like to live under Islamic law….. (By the way, I still have both my hands, just in case you were worried about me…..) Anyhow, I dropped into this shop because the door was open! I was wearing my Religious Habit at the time, and I was welcomed in by the Moslem Family who were reclining at the back of the shop. But there was this old man at the Wheel fashioning a pottery Jar! The people could not speak English, but we didn’t need language, we used gestures, smiles and my excitement seemed to calm their fears. The old man could not leave his wheel because he was creating!!!!! But his son called me to come closer, and to look at what was happening. He could see that I was very interested in the process. The young man pointed to his Dad’s head, and then pointed to the pottery in the making….I could understand that the old man had an image of what he wanted to create, but it seems that surprises seem to often pop up. Sometimes a so called flaw in the pottery can be fashioned into something beautiful. I was taken around the shop to look at the most beautiful showcase of Pottery. I noticed that every object of pottery was different; no two were the same! How good is that? That’s us….no two are the same….even identical twins are different….check out their finger prints!
This experience in the Pottery shop in Amman, taught me just so much about its meaning in the Scriptures where clay and pottery is mentioned. This opened up a whole new world of understanding for me, and hopefully this adventure is contagious for you too right now!
One more thing that I noticed in the Pottery shop….there were no signs on the Jars saying, WATER or FLOUR…no, there were pictures etched into the Pottery of an Oasis with Palms, Camels, and people drinking…..that Jar was to contain water. And the pictures went on and on. Some Jars had stories on them like the one I have just inserted. So, in order to know what was inside the jar, one has to stop and be attentive to the external picture. How good is that? We need to take time and read each other, and not just make harsh assumptions about someone, without taking the time also to look inside, and being respectful, because we are all the work of God’s hands.
To finish off……how about a starter at the fine tuning for Advent…..how about we make a Garden; and Advent Garden, seeing that we are in the Southern Hemisphere?
(Live well with the produce of your garden.)
First, plant four rows of peas.
Next to them plant three rows of Squash.
Then plant lettuce.
Let us be truthful.
Let us be loyal.
Let us be faithful.
Let us love one another.
No garden is complete without turnips.
Turn up for the Eucharist.
Turn up for Community Advent Reconciliation. (Check out your Parish Bulletin)
Turn up for ‘Prayer’ at home with the family.
Turn up for sharing & evaluation.
Turn up to celebrate with the
Community….who needs an occasion?
Turn up on time!
Turn off your Mobile ‘phone before you pray with the community!
God Bless you and your family, and may we never forget each other the next time when we are held in conversation with the Lord,
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………
This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. You might like to create your own Advent Wreath…very simple, for ideas please check out the Posting November 21. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. Someone in the family might like to be the leader, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…
Leader: Trusting that we have been richly blessed and will lack no spiritual gifts on our earthly pilgrimage, we bring these special needs.
- For our Holy Father, our local bishop and our pastors, that they may truly lead and guide us in this new Church year, we pray to the Lord:
- For the leaders of our nation, state, and local community, that they always be guided by God’s word, we pray to the Lord:
- For all the families of our parish, that the Advent Season be for them a time of special closeness and peace, we pray to the Lord:
- For all the single people of our parish and those who have lost a spouse through death, that they may find comfort and support from friends and fellow parishioners, we pray to the Lord:
- As our new week begins, let’s look back to last week. Did we see events and situations in our world which invite prayer from us? If so, would anyone like to share a prayer……..?
- Let’s gather all our prayers spoken and shared and those that are deep within our hearts as we pray the great Prayer of the Church…….Our Father…
Leader: Gracious God, we ask your special nearness to us always as we continue on our life’s journey and await the coming of Jesus your Son, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary
1. The Cross
ALL: WE SHALL TAKE IT.
2. The bread……………
ALL: WE SHALL BREAK IT.
3. The pain
ALL: WE SHALL BEAR IT.
4. The joy………………
ALL: WE SHALL SHARE IT.
5. The Gospel……………
ALL: WE SHALL LIVE IT.
6. The love…………
ALL: WE SHALL GIVE IT.
7. The light……………
ALL: WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
8. The darkness…………….
ALL: WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.