November 25, 2022

First Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Church organizes the biblical readings at Mass into three cycles—A, B, and C. On this weekend, the First Sunday of Advent begins the new Church liturgical year. The readings for this weekend, and until the start of Advent in 2023, will be from cycle A.

Most Gospel readings this year will come from the Gospel of Matthew. Because of this emphasis, the forthcoming biblical readings will allow us to learn about and reflect upon Matthew’s Gospel, its themes and particular perspectives.

This weekend’s first reading is from the first section of the Book of Isaiah. All of Isaiah is eloquent and profound, blunt and frank. Isaiah often warned the people that doom awaited them if they did not return to religious fidelity. This is a theme of the first section.

While somber, the reading is not hopeless. Isaiah reassured the people that if they reformed, God would protect them. So, they should never despair.

After all, such was the ancient covenant. God promised to protect and safeguard the people, although the people themselves could, at least on occasion, bring catastrophe upon themselves by their sins.

Almighty God will judge the good and the bad. Such is the divine right. It also, pure and simple, is logical. All behavior must be balanced against the justice and perfection that are in God. All people must conform to God’s law. The faithful reach the day of their salvation by loving God and obeying God with the help of his ever-present grace.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of the second reading.

Paul always called upon Christians to live as authentic followers of Jesus. Stressing the need to be faithful models of Christ in human living, the Apostle urged disciples to set their priorities by seeing eternal life as the goal.

Be aware. Any Christian may face the end of earthly life at any time. Every human will face the end of earthly life. For the Roman Christians of Paul’s era, the end very often came in the form of a gruesome death after being apprehended and convicted of the crime of Christianity. Paul had a purpose to accomplish in encouraging and challenging his Roman congregation.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, the source of the last reading, foresees the final coming of Jesus. Beneficial reading of the Gospels requires realizing three perspectives:

1) The event in the actual time of Jesus; 2) The event as its implications came to be understood in the time when the Gospels were written, decades after Jesus ascended to heaven; and 3) The place that the event occupies in the general literary structure of the individual Gospel.

Likely composed a few generations after Jesus lived on Earth, the Gospel of Matthew was written for Christians who yearned to be relieved of the burden and peril of living amid harshly antagonistic circumstances by experiencing the triumphant second coming of Jesus.

Recalling the Lord’s own words, the Gospel reminded those Christians, and it reminds us, that Jesus will indeed come again in glory. But we know not when.

Reflection

Advent, begun in this weekend’s liturgy, calls us to prepare for Christmas. Preparation is much, much more than wrapping Christmas gifts and decorating Christmas trees. It means making the coming of Jesus into earthly life a present reality, echoing the joy of the first Christmas, while realizing that ultimately Jesus will come in majesty to judge all humans.

Awaiting that great day, the Church calls us to be good Christians, ridding ourselves of anything standing in the way, so that in us, and through us, Jesus lives in our day.

The Church calls us to set our priorities. We will meet the Lord, so we must prepare to meet him, allowing God to refine us through his grace as honest disciples of the king born in Bethlehem. We must follow the Lord here and now.

Advent is the time to perfect this task. †

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