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Contents: Volume 2 - First Sunday of ADVENT -A- December 1, 2019


 

1st

Sunday of

ADVENT

2019

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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1.

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1st Sunday of Advent 2019

We probably all would agree that we are bombarded by many messages each day, often conflicting ones, that leave us confused at best, or maybe even apathetic or complacent. Well, add a bit of confusion from our reading this first Sunday of Advent! Strangely enough, they do not promote the "hurry up and get prepared for Christmas" theme either in a spiritual or secular way, but rather an admonition to look at the end times when Christ will come in glory, not as a babe.

While we may think we are in a time warp of some kind or turned to the wrong set of readings, there is still a very powerful and seasonally appropriate message in all these readings. They focus on walking in the light of the Lord and climbing the Lord's mountain, hard though it may seem with life's difficulties, and conducting ourselves properly. Staying awake, i. e. being alert, to the Lord present among us even now will help us listen to the instructions of the Lord and better follow them as we live our lives.

We are all familiar with the words "They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." The reality of peaceful coexistence flickers in our modern times, but the hope still remains strong. It remains strong in international and national venues.... and also within our homes, parishes, work places, and neighborhoods.

How many times have you heard or even said "Enough!" in response to a recent altercation? We are all tired of strife of any kind. We so want peacefulness, not only at the end of our lives, but right now!

Remembering the end times or that the end of our personal time in this life is closer than it has ever been, should indeed nudge us to live more "properly" now. We have been blessed by the light of the Lord in Scripture and in people around us who live authentic Christian lives as examples. Let us begin our preparations for this Advent season through an introspection and redirection of our own lives that will allow us to live more peacefully, come what may, right now and later on.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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First Sunday of Advent December 1, 2019

Isaiah 2:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Gospel Acclamation Psalm 85:8; Matthew 24:37-44

We begin this Sunday a four-week time of getting ready. This four-week period is challenging for those with resources. There are events to be planned and executed. There are lists of persons for whom gifts must be purchased. There are guest lists that must be studied so that a meal doesn’t end in a political fight or in dredging up fights and unresolved bad feelings.

For those without resources, the season of preparation is often a reminder of their failures and inability to participate in the great wealth and privilege of our nation. It’s a difficult time in these respects.

Despite the commercialism and the difficulty of mere annual social engagement, Christmas remains for many one of two times that attendance at a religious service is part of their season. Among clergy there is reference to Christmas Stars and Easter Lambs. Perhaps these twice-a-year-practitioners of faith come to find a hoped for relationship with God. Perhaps they come because of a desire to please grandma and grandpa. For whatever reason, they come. Hopefully we welcome them and share the presence of God that we are to one another. Hopefully we welcome them without making them feel like intruders. In our hospitality they may discover Jesus born to us.

This Sunday we begin a time of preparation. If we discount the commercials, the Black Friday pushing and shoving, and the demands of pampered children we might save ourselves from the anxiety of the season. In preparation for a house filled with guests we often clean and polish, wash and organize, discard useless items and decorate. In our northern hemisphere we concentrate on relieving the darkness of the winter season. To create a memorable experience for our families and our guests we prepare and light strings of lights and warm smelling candles.

This Sunday’s liturgy of the Word brings focus on what’s important. It begins with a selection from the first book of Isaiah. Isaiah looks to the future. He begins with the words, "In the Days to Come!" God has a plan for his people. In this first section of the prophet Isaiah, it is the Assyrian empire that is poised to lay siege to Jerusalem. In the place of expected death, destruction, and the terror of the siege, Isaiah promises that all nations will stream to the mountain of the Lord. The Temple, considered the house of God with his people, is on the highest point in Jerusalem. Jerusalem itself is built on a mountain top. And what is it that will attract all nations to Jerusalem? They come so that "he – God – may instruct them in his ways. Then we will have the knowledge and motivation to walk in his paths." What comes of walking in the ways of the Lord? It is peace. For, "they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." In the face of the might of the Assyrian army of Isaiah’s day, these words must have sounded like wishful thinking. In the face of the conflicts of nation against nation, of culture against culture, of wealth against poverty, and of power against those without strength these words are pie-in-the-sky. In our day, these words of Isaiah seem weird. Nations have amassed enough nuclear weaponry to wipe out all civilization and likely all life on the planet. Even nations without nuclear weaponry assign limited resources to build such arsenals. If we think about this we judge ourselves unable to make a difference for our children. Our hearts cry to the heavens desperation and despair, "Come Lord Jesus Come."

That leads us to the Gospel. In this Advent we begin the cycle of readings that spotlight Matthew’s gospel. Matthew’s gospel teaches us about the Kingdom of Heaven. Because Matthew writes his gospel for the Jewish Christian Community he identifies the reign of God as the Kingdom of Heaven. To name it the Kingdom of God would be to focus on naming God. Jews were very careful not to call God by the name he gave himself in Moses’ experience at the burning bush. Therefore, Matthew speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy that names Jesus a descendant of King David. In the very beginning of his gospel, Matthew focuses on the Kingdom of Heaven by announcing the birth of that Kingdom’s leader. It may seem from this that Jesus came to the Jews to the exclusion of the rest of the world. However, that’s not Matthew’s view. Matthew takes on the view of Isaiah in the first reading. All nations will come because the Jews are those who bring the message of God’s loving kindness and mercy to the world. Jesus is the fulfillment of the experiences and prophecies of the nation of Israel. We often think that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy, of predictions of his coming. That is not what Matthew means by fulfillment. Jesus is not merely the person who is the object of a prediction. Jesus is more than that. Jesus is the growth of a reality to its destined fullness. The experience of Israel, the wisdom of its literature, the forward looking of its prophets all are a part of a journey of the People of God’s creation. In Jesus those experiences, those prophecies, and the wisdom of its literature all come to complete the journey of the People of God to their destiny. The Kingdom of Heaven is established. In the fullness of time God comes to live with his people as one of them, and as a lamp to their feet on their journey.

Matthew’s gospel this Sunday is from chapter 24 of the gospel’s 28 chapters. This chapter comes after Jesus teaching, his ministry, and just before his crucifixion and resurrection and ascension. It is a warning and a frightening one. Matthew has consolidated the sayings of Jesus about how the faith will be tested and how the world will continue to behave against those who walk in his way. The chapter begins with Jesus warning the disciples that there will be many who will to be the Messiah. They will insist they are the chosen one, the one anointed to save. They will claim they alone can save the world. Jesus insists – don’t trust them. They are charlatans.

In chapter 24 Matthew continues Jesus’ warnings. He warns of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by the legions of Titus. As the Roman legions approached the people of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea fled to Jerusalem. Based on the warnings of Jesus, most Christians fled the city into cities away from the approaching legions. The horror of the siege of Jerusalem is incomprehensible. You-tube has several presentations of what happened and how between 600,000 and a million persons died. Many starved to death; others were slaughtered. In the end all males age seventeen or older were executed. All women and children were sold as slaves. The temple was burnt and its stones scattered. All that remains is the "wailing wall." Because the Christians fled, the Jews thought of them as cowards and traitors for leaving their Jewish brothers and sisters without support.

The disciples ask Jesus in this chapter when the end of time will come. Jesus tells them that’s God’s business. Their business is to prepare. Jesus tells the story of the great Flood. All except Noah and his family continued living as usual. Only Noah prepared for the coming catastrophe. Thusly it will be. Only those prepared will be able survive and flourish in the Christ. The message is that we should be prepared, that we should be awake to his presence among us. We have many opportunities to meet him on our way. One most certain way is his way of healing and embracing the poor, the sick, the disenfranchised. If we continually practice meeting Jesus on our way, when the horrors come, we will find him walking with us. The cross will come to each of us. For some it is lack of power. For others it is lack of access to wealth. For others it is disease. For others it is rejection by society. Each of us is under siege from the way of the world. Each of us encounters and is attacked by elements of our cultures that threaten peace and well-being.

Heading toward the birth of the Lord, we must prepare to see him. As the prophet Isaiah tells us this first Sunday or Advent: "O house of Jacob come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!" In that light we will come to the fulfillment promised in Matthew’s gospel. As the responsorial psalm instructs us, "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord."

 

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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BE PREPARED – 1ST SUNDAY ADVENT A

The story is told of three devils preparing to depart for Earth to begin their careers of deceiving people with their lies, tricks and spin. Before taking off, each has an interview with Satan, the chief devil. Says Satan to the first young apprentice: ‘And how do you plan to deceive people and destroy them?’ He answers: ‘I plan to convince them that there is no God.’ ‘And what about you?’ says Satan to the second devil, ‘how do you plan to deceive people?’ He answers: ‘I plan to convince people that there is no hell.’ ‘And what about you?’ says Satan to the third devil. He answers: ‘My approach is going to be less intellectual. I simply plan to convince people that they have plenty of time, to prepare both for death and for the Second Coming of Jesus.’ Satan smiles at this and says: ‘Do that, my son, and you will deceive many. Sure as hell they’ll be sucked in by that!’

As today we begin the First Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday of our new Church year, we note that there is much in common between this Sunday and New Year’s Day on January 1st. Both focus on time and how we spend it. Today, then, let us focus on time in two ways: - how best to use the time left to us to prepare for our death, and how best to use the time remaining to prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus, when at the end of all time he will come back to repair, complete, and transform our world.

Both kinds of waiting involve the same kind of effort, the effort to be watchful, on the alert, and living in the light of God. This effort is mentioned in all three bible readings today. In our First Reading from Isaiah, we hear it put this way: ‘O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.’ In the Second Reading Paul writes to the Romans: ‘Brothers and Sisters! You know "the time" has come: you must wake up now … let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light.’ In the gospel Jesus says to his followers: ‘Stay awake, because … [I am] coming at an hour you do not expect.’

‘Walking in the light of the Lord’ includes longing for peace, praying for peace, and working for peace. Isaiah was writing about eight hundred years before Christ, when his people and their lands had been smashed around by the Assyrians. They were tempted to surrender, to just let their conqueror take over their country. But Isaiah tells them that this path is not the way to go: Put aside your plans for a military solution, he advises, attach yourselves once again to God, and revive your trust in God. Have nothing at all to do with war. On the contrary, take the sure path to peace and prosperity. So, hammer your swords into ploughshares and your spears into sickles, and turn the battlefields around you into the garden of God. Then, as a nation at peace, become a light of hope to all the peoples surrounding you.

What about us? In a world still marked by conflict, war, and terror, how can we live out God’s vision of light and peace for the world? We will indeed hammer our swords into ploughshares this Advent season by doing all of the following:

- removing violent words from our speech;

- not watching violent movies and television shows;

- encouraging children to avoid computer games involving destruction of life and property;

- being reconciled with anyone we’ve been fighting, and with anyone from whom we’ve become estranged;

- praying for the wisdom to become peacemakers and reconcilers wherever we find anger, resentment, or hatred;

- praying for the healing and recovery of innocent civilians suffering from the sadness, grief, death and destruction stemming from so much violence in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria;

- giving our support to individuals and groups working for sincere and lasting reconciliation with our aboriginal brothers and sisters, and to those working for just outcomes for refugees and asylum-seekers.

Paul names drunkenness and sexual misbehaviour as things that happen ‘under the cover of dark’. What was happening in social life in Paul’s time is still happening today. So, over the weeks leading up to Christmas, you and I may need to be on our guard against getting drawn into the excess, the madness and the irresponsibility, that too often go with workplace Christmas parties.

Jesus uses the image of a sudden, unexpected home invasion, to say that his ‘second coming’ to earth at the end of time will be just as sudden and just as unexpected. Even though two thousand years have passed since he first taught this, his warning remains real and relevant. ‘Stay awake,’ he still says, ‘get ready, be prepared, by being faithful to my teachings. I am definitely heading your way, even though you know neither the day nor the hour.’

Solid, sound advice surely from Jesus for meeting him, whenever and wherever he comes to take us home!

 

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John


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Volume II Archive

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