November 27, 2020

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 cycle for Sunday Mass readings.

It also is the start of a new liturgical year. Each liturgical year is carefully planned so that the seasons and feasts guide us through our worship to a closer relationship with God in Christ.

The first reading is from the third section of Isaiah, composed when the Jews were in a difficult situation. Years before, the exiles had been allowed to return to the Holy Land from Babylon, 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 unfailingly true to the covenant, to the divine pledge that God would protect the chosen people.

Isaiah appealed to God for relief in the name of the people. He did not say God was treating the people unfairly or putting them in a place of anguish and want. Instead, the prophet made clear that sin led the people away from God. It was this estrangement that produced their woes.

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

He saw unity among disciples as having great religious potential. Unity was possible if, despite all odds produced by their surroundings and the human inclination to sin, they drew more closely to God and to each other. They could then 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—that Christ will come to Earth again as the great victor and the judge of all creation.

When the Gospels were written, certainly in the case of the Gospel of Mark, thought to be the oldest of the four, Christians were numerous and geographically distributed enough to catch the public eye, but not numerous enough or powerful enough to withstand their enemies. The culture was an enemy.

The political system would soon be an enemy. Professing Christianity became a capital crime, as the martyrs were horribly to know.

Understandably, the atmosphere was tense, uncertain and frightening. Thoughts of the second coming naturally were appealing. Jesus would come again, but they did not know when. Neither do we.

In the meantime, they had to acknowledge God, live in his law and trust in their reward. So do we.

Reflection

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

We speak with the priest, but are we speaking with the voice of faith? Are we sincere? Are we good Catholics? When the priest prays the prayers at Mass, do we join him, prompted by a genuinely authentic faith? Bluntly, are we absolutely committed to Christ?

St. Mark’s Gospel assists us to have solid faith. Only God is permanent and real.

Advent is an opportunity to receive the blessing of a greater communion 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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