First Sunday in Advent

-11

Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Prayer of the Week

Advent Prayer

Father, in the wilderness of the Jordan you sent a messenger to prepare people’s hearts for the coming of your Son. Help us to hear his words and repent of my sins, so that we may clearly see the way to walk, the truth to speak, and the life to live for Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Collect

Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,

the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ

with righteous deeds at his coming,

so that, gathered at his right hand,

they may be worthy to possess the heavenly kingdom.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Reading I

Jer 33:14-16

The days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will fulfill the promise

I made to the house of Israel and Judah.

In those days, in that time,

I will raise up for David a just shoot ;

he shall do what is right and just in the land.

In those days Judah shall be safe

and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;

this is what they shall call her:

“The LORD our justice.”

Application

On this the first Sunday of Advent the Church wishes to remind us of what Advent means–a period of preparation for the Advent–the Coming of Christ our Savior. This prophecy of Jeremiah intended to encourage the Jews to trust in God in spite of all their present difficulties, can and should encourage us too. The fulfillment of the ancient prophecies in Christ (this particular one was made six centuries before he came on earth) are a guarantee for us of the truth of his claims–he was the Messiah promised to Abraham, David and the Chosen People. He was the descendant of Abraham, the royal son of David, who would bring back not only Abraham’s people but all nations to the true God. But he was much more than a son of Abraham or of David, he was as well the true Son of God.

In the Christmas festival each year we commemorate his coming on earth. What the Jews of old looked forward to, we can see fulfilled. The great central hope of their religion and of their history–their expectancy of One who was to come, has taken place in our history. The Son of God has come on earth to bring us to heaven. He became man, like one of ourselves, so that we could become like to God, adopted sons of the Father. He suffered during the course of his earthly life so that we could enjoy an eternal happiness in heaven. This is the great mystery, the mystery of God’s love for us which we commemorate and call to mind each Christmas. It should hardly be necessary to urge any Christian–even a lukewarm one–to try to make himself, not worthy, but a little less unworthy, to welcome into his heart and his home the God of love who deigned to share our weak human nature so that we could share in his divinity.

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;

teach me your paths,

Guide me in your truth and teach me,

for you are God my savior,

and for you I wait all the day.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Good and upright is the LORD;

thus he shows sinners the way.

He guides the humble to justice,

and teaches the humble his way.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

All the paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy

toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.

The friendship of the LORD is with those who fear him,

and his covenant, for their instruction.

To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Reading II

1 Thes 3:12-4:2

Brothers and sisters:

May the Lord make you increase and abound in love

for one another and for all,

just as we have for you,

so as to strengthen your hearts,

to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father

at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.

Finally, brothers and sisters,

we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,

as you received from us

how you should conduct yourselves to please God

and as you are conducting yourselves

you do so even more.

For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

Application

The teaching of Christ, the Christian faith, is for all races, all places and all times. St. Paul is telling us today what he told the Thessalonians nineteen centuries ago, to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ–the great day of judgement, by living each day as God wants us to live it, namely by living in love and peace with God and our neighbor. Some of the Thessalonians at that time were expecting the Second Coming–the general judgement–in their own day. It didn’t come then, it hasn’t come yet, but the particular judgement came to them, and it will come to us, in our day and sooner, rather than later, than we expect it. And that particular judgement, when we draw our last earthly breath, will decide our eternal fate. Advent–the preparation for Christmas, Christ’s First Coming, is a most suitable occasion to prepare ourselves for that day. If I were called today to face my particular judgement how would I fare? This is the most important question I could ever put to myself–my eternity depends on the answer. But I can still put things right. I can still get back on the road God has mapped out for me and he is ever ready to forgive the past mistakes. I should be very foolish to delay another moment.

Gospel

Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples:

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,

and on earth nations will be in dismay,

perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.

People will die of fright

in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,

for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

And then they will see the Son of Man

coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

But when these signs begin to happen,

stand erect and raise your heads

because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy

from carousing and drunkenness

and the anxieties of daily life,

and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.

For that day will assault everyone

who lives on the face of the earth.

Be vigilant at all times

and pray that you have the strength

to escape the tribulations that are imminent

and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

CCC 672 Before his Ascension Christ affirmed that the hour had not yet come for the glorious establishment of the messianic kingdom awaited by Israel1 which, according to the prophets, was to bring all men the definitive order of justice, love and peace.2 According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church3 and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching.4

CCC 2612 In Jesus “the Kingdom of God is at hand.”5 He calls his hearers to conversion and faith, but also to watchfulness. In prayer the disciple keeps watch, attentive to Him Who Is and Him Who Comes, in memory of his first coming in the lowliness of the flesh, and in the hope of his second coming in glory.6 In communion with their Master, the disciples’ prayer is a battle; only by keeping watch in prayer can one avoid falling into temptation.7

CCC 2849 Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.8 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”9 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.10 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.”11

1 Cf. Acts 1:6-7.

2 Cf. Is 11:1-9.

3 Cf. Acts 1:8; I Cor 7:26; Eph 5:16; I Pt 4:17.

4 Cf. Mt 25:1, 13; Mk 13:33-37; I Jn 2:18; 4:3; I Tim 4:1.

5 Mk 1:15.

6 Cf. Mk 13; Lk 21:34-36.

7 Cf. Lk 22:40, 46.

8 Cf. Mt 4:1-11; 26:36-44.

9 Jn 17:11; Cf. Mk 13:9, 23, 33-37; 14:38; Lk 12:35-40.

10 Cf. 1 Cor 16:13; Col 4:2; 1 Thess 5:6; 1 Pet 5:8.

11 Rev 16:15.

Application

That this earth is not our permanent home nobody denies, yet many people live and act as if it were. They see funerals and read of the death of friends and fellow-men every day, yet they try to persuade themselves that somehow they will not have to go the same road. But go they must and render an account they must, to the “Son of Man coming with power and in great glory.” We have been forewarned and the words of Christ read in today’s gospel should awaken us to the true facts of life and of death. He does not ask us to ignore or despise this earth or this life but he does ask us to estimate it for what it is–a period of transit which properly used will earn for us our eternal home. If we judge ourselves daily we need not fear the day of judgement. If we are loyal and faithful to our Christian vocation, our end on earth will not be an end but the beginning of our true life.

What better occasion could we have for taking a serious, sincere look at ourselves and at our attitude to life and the things of this life, than this Advent period. If we can welcome the humble Babe of Bethlehem at Christmas with a sincere and open heart–a heart grateful for all the gifts already given us, and sorrowful for all the meanness and thanklessness we have shown in the past, we can trust and hope that the second and glorious coming of Christ will not be for us a catastrophe but rather the culmination of all our dearest hopes and desires–the beginning of a never-ending Christmas of happiness and joy.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.

Benedictus

One aspect of Advent is a waiting that is full of hope. In this, Advent enables us to understand the content and meaning of Christian time and of history as such… Man is always waiting in his life… Mankind has never been able to cease hoping for better times. Christians have always hoped that the Lord will always be present in history and that he will gather up all our tears and all our troubles so that everything will be explained and fulfilled in the kingdom. It becomes especially clear during a time of illness that man is always waiting. Every day we are waiting for a sign of improvement and in the end for a complete cure. At the same time, however, we discover how many different ways there are of waiting. When time itself is not filled with a present that is meaningful, waiting becomes unbearable. If we have a look forward to something that is not there now – if, in other words, we have nothing here and now and the present is completely empty, every second of our life seems too long. Waiting itself becomes too heavy a burden to bear, when we cannot be sure whether we really have anything at all to wait for. When, on the other hand, time itself is meaningful and every moment contains something especially valuable, our joyful anticipation of the greater experience that is still to come makes what we have in the present even more precious and we are carried by an invisible power beyond the present moment. Advent helps us to wait with precisely this kind of waiting. It is the essentially Christian form of waiting and hoping.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Closing Prayer

Advent Prayer

God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

* * *

Intentions of Pope Francis – Month of December

Universal

Dialogue. That we may be open to personal encounter and dialogue with all, even those whose convictions differ from our own.

Evangelization

Pastors. That pastors of the Church, with profound love for their flocks, may accompany them and enliven their hope.

* * *

Advent Wreath Prayer

The following are the Advent wreath prayers that change every week.

They are prayed at the lighting of each candle every evening during Advent.

Week One:

The first candle is lit, and the prayer for the first week is said.

Let us pray.

Stir up Thy might, we beg Thee, O Lord,

and come, so that we may escape through Thy protection

and be saved by Thy help from the dangers

that threaten us because of our sins.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

All: Amen.

During the first week one candle is left burning during the evening meal, or during prayers.

Week Two:

Two candles are lit on the second Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer for the week is:

Let us pray.

O Lord, stir up our hearts

that we may prepare for Thy only begotten Son,

that through His coming

we may be made worthy to serve Thee with pure souls.

Through the same Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Week Three:

Three candles, including the rose candle, are lit on Gaudete, the third Sunday, and during that week. The following prayer is said:

Let us pray.

We humbly beg Thee, O Lord,

to listen to our prayers;

and by the grace of Thy coming

bring light into our darkened minds.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

Week Four:

All four candles are lit on the fourth Sunday and allowed to burn as before. The prayer said the fourth week is:

Let us pray.

Stir up Thy might, we pray Thee, O Lord, and come;

rescue us through Thy great strength so that salvation,

which has been hindered by our sins,

may be hastened by the grace of Thy gentle mercy.

Who livest and reigns for ever and ever.

Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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