December 1, 2017

First Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church begins Advent. It begins the use of biblical readings from Year B of its three-year Sunday Mass reading cycle.

It also is the start of a new liturgical year. Each liturgical year is carefully planned so that the seasons and the major feasts guide us through the Church’s worship into a closer relationship with God.

The first reading is from the third section of Isaiah, composed when the Jews were in a difficult situation. Years before, they had been allowed to return to the Holy Land from Babylon after being exiled there. But this return brought the exiles home to no paradise. Life was miserable.

The prophet called for faith in God, not only as almighty, but as unrelentingly true to his covenant, to the divine pledge that he would protect his chosen people.

The prophet appealed for relief to God in the name of the people, but without saying that the people were being treated unfairly, at least in terms of God’s care for them. Indeed, Isaiah made clear that sin led the people away from God. This estrangement has produced their woes.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the next reading. Counseling the Christians of Corinth was a challenge for Paul. Not only did temptation and vice surround them on every side, but they also argued among themselves. Paul called them to faithfulness and sought to persuade them to put their differences aside.

He saw the disciples there as having enormous religious potential, despite the odds produced by their surroundings and the human inclination to sin. If they chose to cooperate with God’s grace, they would be able to be close to God and also infuse the goodness of Christianity into the circles in which they moved.

St. Mark’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. It offers us a theme found often in the New Testament, namely that Christ will come to Earth again. In this second coming, the Lord will be the great victor and the judge of all creation.

By the time the Gospels were written— even in the case of the Gospel of Mark, thought to be the oldest of the four as they now exist—Christians were numerous enough and geographically distributed enough to catch the public eye, but not numerous enough or powerful enough to stand against their enemies. The culture was an enemy. Soon, the political system would be an enemy as well.

Being a Christian became a capital crime, as the martyrs were horribly to know.

Understandably, the atmosphere was tense, uncertain and frightening. Thoughts of the second coming were naturally appealing. Jesus will come again, but we know not when. We do not know the future.

In the meantime, we must acknowledge God, live in his law and trust in our reward.

If we are with God, we need not fear.

Reflection

The prayers of the Mass are the united expression of faith of all believers, spoken through and by the celebrant, to proclaim our trust in Almighty God.

We pray with the priest, in our faith and worship. But are we sincere? Does the priest praying the prayers at Mass represent our genuinely authentic faith, our absolute commitment to Christ?

Mark’s Gospel greatly assists us in forming solid faith. Only God is permanent and real.

Advent is an opportunity to grow in our union with God, to realize that God’s love for us is real.

If we respond to the opportunity given to us by Advent, then Christmas becomes not a national holiday, or even a holy religious commemoration, but the moment when we encounter God, firmly believing that Jesus will come again, but also believing that here and now we know the Lord. †

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