1st Sunday of Advent year A, 2016. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh. COME, LORD JESUS!
Christmas is nearly here! Well, as far as the shops go, Christmas has been here for at least a month or two! Last Saturday night I was in the City (Sydney) to meet up with some friends of mine, and we went to have Dinner at Darling Harbour, this is a most beautiful place where families like to go to enjoy Sydney Harbour, and choose from the huge number of Restaurants to have Dinner. To our surprise, there must have been hundreds of people dressed up as Santa. Santa’s on water skies, Santa’s in small choirs, people in general wearing the typical Santa hats; small stalls selling Santa gear, and snow that you can buy in a pressure pack called: Santa snow! The background music being broadcasted was Jingle Bells, and All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth! Every now and then…a Christmas carol like Silent Night and Angels we have heard on high was played, within an atmosphere of ‘party time’
Advent does not exist for most people. Here in Australia, the time of Advent is usually celebrated with Shopping Sprees, Office Parties, Summer heat with flies and mosquitoes around Bar-B-Q’s, and plastering the outsides of Houses with all kinds of coloured lights in the form of Reindeers, Santa Sleighs and maybe one or two Angels; occasionally there are a few Nativity scenes in our shopping centres.
Maranartha! Come, Lord Jesus! Advent is a fantastic time to sharpen our awareness of Christ who continually comes to us. Advent is a time for us to STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN to God’s Kingdom present, but not yet fully realised. Advent is a time for us to check out the virtue of Hope! It is a time for us to re-evaluate our relationship with God, and each other. It is a time to be strengthened by the Gospel, and to facilitate the Spirit’s activity within us, so that we may discern with sharper spiritual vision, the signs and the times in which we live, as an invitation to renewed personal and community mission.
So, that being the case, let’s dig into God’s Word for the First Sunday of Advent. The Prophet Isaiah speaks the Lord’s Word to a people who needed uplifting. They needed that kind of Radar that our Armed Forces use these days at sea; over the horizon views, so that they can be just that little more prepared for what may be coming towards them. Isaiah and his community, empowered by God’s Word, enabled his listeners to see outside themselves towards a future time, when God’s saving hand will be manifested in a particular way, which will be seen and praised by those who hunger and thirst for this Epiphany. The city will be called: ‘The Lord our Integrity’…Jeremiah 33:16. Are we talking about a City like Jerusalem or Bethlehem? Or could the City be within an itinerant group of people called the Anawim, “the Lord’s poor”…….Food for thought!
The Responsorial Psalm is the “community response” to the First Reading; hence its Antiphon is like a Text message for our hearts. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord. The verses of this wonderful Psalm flesh out why we can pray that Antiphon. At this stage you might like to scroll back to the Psalm. The first verse is full of living memories! Verses two and three outline why the Psalmist /we can hopefully say why we go rejoicing to the Lord God. We need to prayerfully pray the Responsorial Psalms with the assistance of Music, or the community representative who is praying this Psalm on our behalf should take it slowly so that we can pray it, and not say it…..See the difference? Fortunately, while at home viewing this Blog on your Tablet or PC, or Mobile phone, you can take your time if savouring God’s Word.
The Second Reading from St. Paul is such a warm, uplifting and encouraging Pastoral Letter to the Christian Church/Community in Thessalonica. The content, tone and wording of this Letter is evergreen, and should well be a guide for all Christian Leaders for all times. Some modern day Pastoral Letters sometimes read like a Government Gazette, they are just not pastoral but clinical and legalistic; often addressed to the hearers as though we are part of a Business Corporation like Hilton Hotels!!! However, Pope Francis, and though Shepherds who are on the same page as him, certainly make their Pastoral Letters warm, personal, friendly and challenging. The spirituality of the Gospel is being affirmed and encouraged by the Apostle within the fledgling Church. This is truly an Advent extract from this Pauline Letter. See how the Second Reading builds on the First Reading, and then the Psalm? The savouring of God’s Word this Sunday will enable us to truly enter into the spirit of Advent. Why not re visit these Readings during the week, and as you go through them, have in the back of your mind a good question like; “Lord, what are you saying to me through your Word, how can my life be changed in response?”
The Gospel today develops the “Advent” theme even more; the first paragraph calls us to be sensitive and astute as to what goes on around us. If there is one situation that scares the life out of all us, is when the ‘earth moves under our feet’, or when other potential cataclysmic events rock the world, we begin to realise once more how fragile we are, and how vulnerable we are in the face of natural disasters. These events can bring out the best/the divine in human nature, and it can bring out the worst as well. Together with these moments are moments of lethargy ….’Couldn’t care less attitude, or preoccupied in ‘living’ the life of absorption within the pleasures or escapes from the reality of this world. The state of ‘readiness ‘and sensitivity which is brought to the surface as a by-product of natural disasters, or personal and communitarian ‘wake up calls’ ought to enable us to be on ‘standby’ all the times. This ‘readiness’ for Mission is the key; our alertness to respond to Christ within our sisters and brothers, the inner courage to live the inner integrity in the face of and within our society, is something like the Prophet Jeremiah was speaking about in the last line of the first reading today………’the city will be called, ‘the Lord our integrity’.
The second paragraph of the Gospel tells us very clearly as to what can anesthetise our response to our Christian calling. So the first Sunday of the Liturgical Year in this season of Advent, has a very important place in our lives. If we jump to Christmas and dismiss Advent, it is a bit like skipping the Entre’ and Main course at Dinner, and going straight to the Sweets and Irish coffee.
Advent has more social and material opposition than Lent! December in the Southern Hemisphere is ‘party time’, beach time, schoolies holidays on the Gold Coast or in places like Indonesia, and holidays for most of us. Whereas for our Northern Hemisphere sisters and brothers, it is mostly cold, dark, wet and gloomy, punctuated by dazzling coloured lights in the Cities, Towns and Villages. It is not holidays time…it is working days as usual! In the European country areas, the gatherings around gorgeous fire places, preparing to eat Baked Ham and Turkey, Plum Puddings with Brandy Custard, and shopping for presents are on their minds. Many of us old Anglo Saxons here in Australia, still wish that it was a white Christmas!!! Christmas is right in your face from the moment you hop in your car to go somewhere. Advent is a subtle undercurrent which when visited, ingested, and savoured, has the ability to nudge us to see the world and its people, as truly God’s people, with the urgent latent Missionary adventure of bringing Heaven to Earth, as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer. The season of Advent is a time and opportunity for our inner renewal, the discarding of numbing ways which can inhibit our feeling for, and response to, the Christ who comes to us all the time in Word, Sacrament and His People.
May we all be blessed during this time of Advent, and as we engage in savouring God’s Word, may the Spirit of God find a responsive heart in all of us.
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Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/