First Week of Advent – B

the-last-judgement-jan-ii-provost.jpg Jesus said to his disciples:
  “Be watchful! Be alert! 
 You do not know when the time will come.”

OPENING PRAYER

Father, all-powerful God, your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in the same watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming. We ask this through Christ our Lord. 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

a048f62a4d97bc553b4bce3aa34d4f60--art-roman-school-posters.jpg           Is 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

 

You, LORD, are our father, 
our redeemer you are named forever.  
Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways,
 and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
  Return for the sake of your servants,
 the tribes of your heritage.
  Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
 with the mountains quaking before you,
 while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, 
such as they had not heard of from of old.
  No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
 doing such deeds for those who wait for him.
  Would that you might meet us doing right,
 that we were mindful of you in our ways!
  Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful;
 all of us have become like unclean people, 
all our good deeds are like polluted rags;
 we have all withered like leaves, 
and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
  There is none who calls upon your name,
 who rouses himself to cling to you;
 for you have hidden your face from us
 and have delivered us up to our guilt.
  Yet, O LORD, you are our father;
 we are the clay and you the potter: 
we are all the work of your hands.

APPLICATION

Advent is the holy season in which the Church calls on us to prepare ourselves worthily to commemorate the anniversary of the coming of Christ amongst us. The lesson we have read has many instructions for us. If we take them to heart, they can help us to prepare ourselves for the great feast of Christmas. The pious Jews; Third-Isaiah was one; looked forward anxiously and eagerly to a second coming of Yahweh amongst them. They had no very clear idea of how this would take place. They hoped and prayed that this coming would be very soon; otherwise the iniquities of the majority would destroy the whole Chosen People.

We are now living in the Christian age and have this marvelous advantage over the pious Jews of old: we have seen the realization of all their hopes and prayers. We know that God has come amongst us in a way that they in their wildest dreams could not have hoped for. God the Son became man–one of us. He joined our human nature to his divine nature. This made us his brothers and therefore adopted sons of his eternal Father.

The Jews could call God their Father because he had revealed himself to them and had made them into a chosen race; a people set apart from all the other nations; and had established them in the promised land of Canaan. They called him their Redeemer because he had led them out of the slavery of Egypt and protected them during their long journey toward their homeland.

However, all this was but a shadow when compared with the reality. It was a foretaste of the tremendous act of fatherly love and compassion which the infinite God has since shown, not to one race or one people but to the whole human race in the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son. The Jews could call God their Father because he had united them into a Chosen People. With much more right and with infinitely more truth we can and do call him our Father. He has united us to his divine Son and made us his true children, brothers of Christ.

God was the Redeemer of the Chosen People. By his mighty hand he set them free from the slavery of Egypt, and later from other oppressions. He gave them a homeland to live in. But what was this redemption compared with what God has done for us through Christ? Through the Incarnation God has made available to all mankind an eternal home of peace and happiness. There we shall be free from sin and from all earthly limitations, imperfections and dangers. By becoming man the second person of the Blessed Trinity made us children of God and heirs to heaven. By dying for us and rising from the dead he has conquered our death. Because of this, death is not the end of life for us but the beginning of our true life–everlasting life.

The prophet’s prayer has been heard, his devout wish has been fulfilled. We are preparing ourselves to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for us; the coming of the Son of God as a baby, born of a lowly, human mother in the midst of poverty. We are preparing to celebrate the great feast of Christ, the birthday of Christ, our divine Redeemer. Like the prophet, we must confess that we too are unworthy of God’s love and of God’s pardon. How many times have we offended our loving Father during the past year? How often have we forgotten him in our daily pursuit of earthly things?

There is still time to repent of our sins and to make ourselves worthy of all that Christmas means. We are the adopted sons of the Father of infinite mercy. If, truly repentant, we turn to him he will forgive us and make us worthy to be his children and call him by the loving name of “Father.”

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
  Rouse your power, 
and come to save us.


Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Once again, O LORD of hosts, 
look down from heaven, and see;
 take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted 
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.


Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
 give us new life, and we will call upon your name.


Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

READING II

Paul-icon.jpg

1 Cor 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
  Grace to you and peace from God our Father
 and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  I give thanks to my God always on your account
 for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
 that in him you were enriched in every way,
 with all discourse and all knowledge,
 as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
 as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  He will keep you firm to the end,
 irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  God is faithful, 
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
 Jesus Christ our Lord.

APPLICATION

On reading these few verses of St. Paul’s first letter to his Corinthian converts, our first thought should be to return thanks and heartfelt gratitude to God for the supernatural gift of the Christian faith which he has given us. Like the Corinthians, we were made adopted children of God and brothers of Christ when we received the sacrament of baptism. This Christian faith is not only a satisfactory answer to the questions which our sojourn on this earth raises, but it is the only true answer to the basic question which every thinking man must ask himself: “Why do I exist?”

Our Christian faith teaches us that we were created by God. Through the incarnation we were given the privilege of divine adoption, which means an eternal life with the Blessed Trinity in heaven. Christ, the Son of God has won this for us and has revealed it to us. He has promised us this happy ending to our earthly life provided we keep his commandments and live our earthly lives as faithful followers of his—as true Christians.

During the four weeks of Advent, the Church in her liturgy keeps reminding us of these basic truths of our faith. In helping us to prepare ourselves to welcome the birth of Christ at Christmas, the stress is always on the necessity of living our Christian lives, so that at whatever moment he calls us we shall be ready to meet him and be found worthy to enter eternal life. This is what St. Paul taught the Corinthian Christians. This is what he is teaching each one of us today.

St. Paul may have expected the second coming of Christ, as Judge (the parousia), to take place in the early days of the Church for he had no revelation concerning the when or the how of this coming. Although the general judgment did not come then, the particular judgment–meeting Christ as judge–did take place for each Christian at death. Each one’s eternity depends on his spiritual state when he meets Christ as Judge.

For us, the end of the world and the last judgment may or may not be far off, but the particular judgment is nearer to each one of us than we might care to admit. It is for this particular meeting with Christ that we must prepare. As the Apostle reminds us today, we have Christ with us sustaining us to the end. The loving God who called us into the fellowship of his Son has put us on the right road to heaven. He will keep us on that road if we follow his instructions, and use the aids Christ left us in his Church.

Let us prepare ourselves to welcome the first coming of Christ amongst us. Had we been there then, knowing what we now know, how gladly, how eagerly, would we not have taken him into our homes and our hearts! But we can still show our appreciation of what Christ has done for us, by welcoming him spiritually into a true Christian home this Christmas, and by receiving him sacramentally into a heart free from sin and from all worldly attachments.

If we do this each Christmas, and if we continue through the year to appreciate what Christmas and Christ’s first coming mean to us, then it will not be as a severe judge but as a loving brother and Savior that we shall meet him in his second coming.

GOSPEL

9f8048fa1e7bb6e50dde9a5d6a9a13b1--byzantine-art-orthodox-icons.jpg

Mk 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:
”  Be watchful! Be alert! 
 You do not know when the time will come.  
It is like a man traveling abroad.  
He leaves home and places his servants in charge, 
each with his own work, 
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
  Watch, therefore; 
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
 whether in the evening, or at midnight,
 or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
 What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/120317.cfm

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

Advent is the holy season in which the Church calls on us to prepare ourselves worthily to commemorate the anniversary of the coming of Christ amongst us. The lesson we have read has many instructions for us. If we take them to heart, they can help us to prepare ourselves for the great feast of Christmas. The pious Jews; Third-Isaiah was one; looked forward anxiously and eagerly to a second coming of Yahweh amongst them. They had no very clear idea of how this would take place. They hoped and prayed that this coming would be very soon; otherwise the iniquities of the majority would destroy the whole Chosen People.

We are now living in the Christian age and have this marvelous advantage over the pious Jews of old: we have seen the realization of all their hopes and prayers. We know that God has come amongst us in a way that they in their wildest dreams could not have hoped for. God the Son became man–one of us. He joined our human nature to his divine nature. This made us his brothers and therefore adopted sons of his eternal Father.

The Jews could call God their Father because he had revealed himself to them and had made them into a chosen race; a people set apart from all the other nations; and had established them in the promised land of Canaan. They called him their Redeemer because he had led them out of the slavery of Egypt and protected them during their long journey toward their homeland.

However, all this was but a shadow when compared with the reality. It was a foretaste of the tremendous act of fatherly love and compassion which the infinite God has since shown, not to one race or one people but to the whole human race in the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son. The Jews could call God their Father because he had united them into a Chosen People. With much more right and with infinitely more truth we can and do call him our Father. He has united us to his divine Son and made us his true children, brothers of Christ.

God was the Redeemer of the Chosen People. By his mighty hand he set them free from the slavery of Egypt, and later from other oppressions. He gave them a homeland to live in. But what was this redemption compared with what God has done for us through Christ? Through the Incarnation God has made available to all mankind an eternal home of peace and happiness. There we shall be free from sin and from all earthly limitations, imperfections and dangers. By becoming man the second person of the Blessed Trinity made us children of God and heirs to heaven. By dying for us and rising from the dead he has conquered our death. Because of this, death is not the end of life for us but the beginning of our true life–everlasting life.

The prophet’s prayer has been heard, his devout wish has been fulfilled. We are preparing ourselves to commemorate this extraordinary act of divine love for us; the coming of the Son of God as a baby, born of a lowly, human mother in the midst of poverty. We are preparing to celebrate the great feast of Christ, the birthday of Christ, our divine Redeemer. Like the prophet, we must confess that we too are unworthy of God’s love and of God’s pardon. How many times have we offended our loving Father during the past year? How often have we forgotten him in our daily pursuit of earthly things?

There is still time to repent of our sins and to make ourselves worthy of all that Christmas means. We are the adopted sons of the Father of infinite mercy. If, truly repentant, we turn to him he will forgive us and make us worthy to be his children and call him by the loving name of “Father.”

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

BENEDICTUS

Advent Waiting

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 his kingdom. It becomes especially clear during a time of illness that man is always waiting. Everyday 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 to 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

Lord God,

I sense your power, your might

and I stand in awe, painfully aware

of how poor and weak I am before you.

As I begin this Advent journey,

teach me to turn to you in my fear and sorrow.

I don’t want to keep making my heart hard against you

turning a deaf ear to your invitation.

Only you can help me to soften,

to be like the clay in your gentle potter’s hands.

May the Lord bless us,

protect us from all evil

and bring us to everlasting life.

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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