1st SUNDAY OF ADVENT–A– December 1, 2019
Isaiah 2: 1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13: 11-14; Matthew 24: 37-44
by Jude Siciliano, OP
AN END OF THE YEAR APPEAL
In our liturgical celebrations and daily prayer we frequently pray for vocations.
I live in a novitiate community of the Southern Dominican Province, USA.
I can say that I have seen visible evidence that our prayers have been heard, for we have two vibrant novices spending their first year in the Order with us.
Please join us in praying for them as they discern their vocations.
"First Impressions" is a free weekly preaching ministry. If you can help support this ministry, as well as help with the training of our novices, we would appreciate it. Please pray for us, as we do for you, our benefactors, each day.
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Dominican Fathers of Irving
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Irving, Texas 75062-4736
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Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions" the parishioners of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Manhattan.
The first Sunday of Advent begins a new liturgical year when the Sunday gospel readings will be taken primarily from Matthew. It is strange then that the gospel reading for this Sunday is from one of the last chapters in Matthew. Thus, the apocalyptic theme of the past weeks continues as we enter Advent. Apocalyptic messages are about the final coming of the Lord, for whom we are waiting. So, Advent begins, not with in anticipation of Christ’s first coming at his birth, but with a look to his return and a call to be attentive now to his presence.
Our first reading from Isaiah is one of seven visions the prophet shared with the people of Judah. He looks to God’s future coming to establish peace… "In days to come." What has God planned for the people? There will be peace among nations ("all nations") and prosperity, as people turn away from conflict to peaceful relations. In the eighth century BCE Isaiah was trying to warn the people of Judah, in the south, of the imminent dangers of assault from the Assyrians, who had already enslaved Israel in the north. He was urging the people to remain faithful to God and, to reinforce his message, he offered them a vision of peace and unity, not just for them, but for all the peoples of the world.
Isaiah stirs us as we hear his promise for a future when nation shall "beat their swords into plowshares." The prophecy can sound like a mere pipe dream, a wistful hope for better times. If that is all the prophet is saying then this lovely reading, with its poetic images, would make a good discussion in a high school literature class. But Isaiah’s prophecy gave the people hope and reassurance that, despite appearances and the mockery of their enemies, God had not forgotten them.
We can pause here and respond to Isaiah’s invitation, "Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain." Climbing a mountain takes effort, perseverance and determination. Isaiah invites us to acknowledge the darkness of our personal lives, as well as that of our church, overshadowed these days by the horrible accounts of sexual abuse. Stirred by Isaiah’s prophecy we turn to God for forgiveness and healing. We will indeed have to "climb the Lord’s mountain" and such a climb, with what it asks us and our church to do, is difficult. In fact, we are not capable of doing ll this on our own.
Isaiah did not think that mere human effort alone could bring about the peace he was visioning. Today’s halfhearted and frustrated efforts at peace by international leaders confirms Isaiah’s vision that only with God can we accomplish God’s call to live in peace with one another. The prophet was insistent that peace could only happen when people turn to God for instruction, live under God’s judgment and respond to God’s arbitration. "God shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples."
Isaiah invites us to "walk in the light of the Lord," – a light which the Holy Spirit pours out on us during these weeks of preparation for the Lord’s coming. We will have to wait till later in Advent to shift our attention to the birth of Christ. On this Sunday we are asked to reflect on his "second coming." Not just reflect, but live in ways that show we expect his return and are doing what we must to prepare for him when he does come. If we are a person who tends to put things off – and who isn’t? – the gospel has an urgency about it, that should stir us to action now. The images warn us that the day is coming that will test our complacency. It will be a day of judgment, for it will reveal how we have put confidence in what is not true, lasting or secure.
What do we need to do to be prepared for Christ’s return? Our future hope calls for action now. Advent is saying to us, "Wake up! Don’t let the time drift by." Are there specific changes we need to make now in our lives? What patterns and ways have been shown to be disruptive, wasteful, and distractions for Advent people looking for Christ in our daily lives? Jesus calls us to constant vigilance as he says, "Therefore, stay awake!" So, let us make our preparation for Christ’s coming very specific and daily. We can try doing that by searching for Christ each day, because he is already present to us. The resurrection stories show that Christ is alive and walks among us, often in unrecognizable ways.
We take our clues from the Gospels. They point us to his presence and remind us how he feeds us in word and sacrament at this table. Having been nourished by these sacramental encounters with Christ, we go forth "prepared" and "awake" to meet him in the poor and the needy of our world. As Advent begins we recommit ourselves to seeing Christ already present among us and we stay awake and prepare ourselves to be alert when he comes at last "in those days."
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