November 25, 2016

First Sunday of Advent / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Church organizes the biblical readings at weekend Mass into three cycles, A, B, and C. This weekend, the First Sunday of Advent, begins a new Church liturgical year. Therefore, the readings for this weekend, and until Advent 2018, will be within Cycle A.

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

This weekend’s first reading is from the first section of the Book of Isaiah. Inevitably, all of Isaiah is eloquent and profound.

Isaiah is also blunt and frank. The prophet often warned the people that doom awaited them if they did not return in fidelity to God. This is a theme of the first section of Isaiah.

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

After all, such was the ancient covenant. God promised to protect and secure the people, although the people themselves could, at least for a while, bring catastrophe upon themselves by their sins.

Almighty God will judge the good and the bad. Such is the divine right. It is also logical, pure and simple. All behavior must be balanced against the justice and love that are in God. All must conform to God’s law in order to come to true happiness and fulfillment. The faithful hasten the day of their salvation by loving and obeying God.

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

Paul called upon Christians to live as authentic followers of Jesus. While stressing the need to be faithful models of Christ in human living, the Apostle urged disciples to set their priorities by the standard that eternal life is the goal. Moreover, each Christian, as each human, may face the end of earthly life at any time. For the Roman Christians of this era, the end very well might come in the form of a gruesome death after being convicted of the crime of Christianity. So Paul had a genuine task to accomplish in encouraging and challenging the faithful in Rome.

The Gospel of Matthew, the source of the last reading, predicts the final coming of Jesus. Beneficial reading of the Gospels requires realizing three perspectives: 1) The Gospel 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, probably decades after Jesus; and, 3) The place that the event occupies in the general literary structure of each individual Gospel.

Likely composed generations after Jesus, Matthew was written for Christians who yearned to be relieved of the burden, and indeed 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 reminds us, that indeed Jesus will come again in glory.

Reflection

Advent, begun in the liturgies of this weekend, calls us to prepare for Christmas. Preparation is much more than wrapping Christmas gifts and decorating Christmas trees. It means working to make the coming of Jesus into earthly life, commemorated on Christmas, a truly personal experience when the Lord comes into our loving hearts here and now.

So the Church calls us to be good Christians, to rid ourselves of anything standing in the way.

It calls us to reset our priorities. Regardless of Christmas 2016, Jesus will come again to Earth in a most glorious, victorious and final sense. We will meet the Lord, as God’s judge, after death. We must prepare to meet the Lord. We must refine ourselves as honest disciples of the king born in Bethlehem. We today must shape our lives with these realities in mind. †

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