Pastoral Sharings: " First Sunday of Advent"

WeeklyMessageFather Alex McAllister SDS
December 1, 2013
First Sunday of Advent

Today we begin Advent and the new liturgical year. It seems a little ironic that the words of Jesus addressed to us are Stay awake! 
It makes it sound as if right here at the very start of the year we are already beginning to fall asleep! But there again I suppose one mustn’t take anything for granted!
The Advent Season is about waiting—waiting in expectation for the coming of the Lord. There are two sorts of waiting here; waiting for the celebration of Christ’s birth and waiting for his second coming at the end of time.
At this point perhaps it would be appropriate here to say something about the concept of time in the sacred liturgy. We are preparing for Christmas, that great feast in which we celebrate Christ’s birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
You could say it is like us keeping a birthday or an anniversary, a celebration which marks the passing of years. But it is much more than this, because in the liturgy, in a certain sense, we step outside time and actually relive the event of Christ’s birth. That is why there is no baby in the crib until the start of Midnight Mass.
Through the liturgy we are really there. We unite ourselves with those who were waiting for the coming of the Messiah. We accompany Mary and Joseph on their journey to Bethlehem and their search for a suitable place for Jesus to be born. We find ourselves out on the hillside with the shepherds. We kneel at our Saviour’s birth in the stable. And we are there to observe the three kings present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The liturgy is not merely the commemoration of an anniversary, it does not simply mark the passing of time since that great event; it actually takes us there and makes us part of what it is we celebrate.
And this is never more so than when we are celebrating the Eucharist. We do not re-enact the Last Supper, no what happens at mass is that the Last Supper is made present to us.
As we gather around the table of the Lord we are completely at one with those disciples there in the Upper Room. The priest does not merely say the words of Christ to us; he becomes Christ’s representative for us.
The bread and wine are not merely figurative representations of Christ’s body and blood but Christ actually becomes present in his body and blood under the appearance of the bread and wine. This is why we receive Holy Communion so reverently; we are fully aware it is Christ whom we receive.
In the Eucharist time collapses, so to speak, we are present at the Last Supper and at the same time also present at the Banquet of Heaven.
The same goes for the various celebrations during the liturgical year. In the liturgy we are taken to Bethlehem, to the Cross on Calvary, to the Empty Tomb and to the Room where the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles at Pentecost.
In this season of Advent we spend time preparing and waiting, just as the Chosen People did through so many centuries as they hoped and prayed and longed for the coming of the Messiah.
In these few weeks through the liturgy we become conscious of the need for a Saviour, we acknowledge our need for repentance and we accompany Mary and Joseph and John the Baptist through the mysterious events that immediately preceded Christ’s birth.
In the Gospel Jesus stresses that the Son of Man will come at a time we will not expect. That’s the point of the reference to Noah. The people did not believe that there would be a great flood and thought that Noah was foolish to build an Ark. They wrote him off and dismissed him as a madman.
Christ will come suddenly and unexpectedly. It was the same at his first coming; Christ came quietly and to most people quite unexpectedly. There were however some people who were aware of who he was Mary, of course, and Joseph and John the Baptist even while in the womb. There were others to whom his significance was revealed: the shepherds in the hills and the Wise Men from the East. But to the majority of the population his coming was unheralded and unknown.
The great difference is that his second coming cannot be ignored because it will mark the end of the world, the end of the universe, the end of time itself.
The words of Christ in our Gospel today make it clear that he wants his followers to be awake and attentive. He wants them to be fully ready when that day comes. Although it will come suddenly and without warning, it should be no surprise to us Christians, it should not find us unprepared.
But even more than being ready, we Disciples of Christ should be actively longing for the coming of the Kingdom. We should have an earnest yearning in our hearts for Christ to come again in glory, a sort of nostalgia for heaven that burns within us.
We know that this world is but a preparation for the life to come; it has no meaning other than this. Those who put their trust in the things of this world are making a false choice; they have allowed themselves to be deceived.
This difference between us and such people should be patently obvious to those around us. They ought to be able to recognise from our lifestyle, from our conversation, from our personal priorities that we are looking forward to the Kingdom. Indeed they should be able to recognise us as people who are already living and acting as citizens of heaven.
We should be as different to non-believers as Noah was to those who scoffed at him.
St Paul in his Letter to the Romans goes even one stage further. He says that “the time” has already come, that we are now living in what we can only call the end-times. He views this period between Pentecost and Christ’s Second Coming as a time when the Kingdom of Heaven is already breaking in on this world.
This is why we shouldn’t be surprised to see miracles and other wonders that we ordinarily connect with the end-times.

For us the Second Coming and the time of judgement and the drawing together of all things in Christ are just around the corner. And this belief gives us a totally different view of the world. Yes we enjoy the world we live in and all it has to offer but there is a restlessness about us because we are waiting anxiously for its completion.
And the prayer that is on our lips is that very word Advent: Come.
Come Lord Jesus come. Come into our hearts right now. Come and raise us up to glory. Come into this world right now and bring everything that exists to its completion in Christ.

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
December 1, 2013

First Sunday of Advent
Matthew 24:37-44
Gospel Summary

Jesus tells his disciples that they cannot know the day their Lord is coming. They must be prepared because that coming will be at a moment they least expect. He observed that people were totally unconcerned at the time of the flood. As a result the unexpected flood destroyed them. In the same way, he warns, a thief can enter a house if the owner is not prepared to safeguard it.

Christmas Lights and Advent
As fall moves onward towards winter we have places to go, things to do, people to meet.  Yet as we go about our business, we notice the days are getting shorter.  Sweaters come out of storage, we close the windows, and turn on the heat.  

Advent is a season where we stop and remember that the light of this world is waning in more ways than one.   That the world as we know it is passing away.

The First Sunday of Advent: Preparing for What Matters
So, how many of you went shopping on Friday?  I’m not sure why they call it “Black Friday.”  Is it because we kill off whatever money we have, or put ourselves into a black hole of credit? Or is it because our shopping puts all these merchants’ books in the black? Whatever.  Black Friday is the first day of the Christmas shopping season.  Those who were up searching for bargains were beginning their preparation for Christmas. 

This is the First Sunday of Advent.  Advent is the season of preparation.  Only, unlike the shopping sprees we go on, or the other parts of Christmas preparation, like cards and parties and gift wrap, we are not preparing for just one day, or even a week.  Advent is the season of preparation for the rest of our lives.

1st Sunday of Advent: 12 things to know and share
Advent not only prepares us for the birth of Jesus Christ (his first advent), it also prepares us for his return (his second advent).

Both of these themes are present in the readings for this Sunday.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

How is the “Weakness” of God Stronger than Satan’s “Power?”
There is a line in the Letter to the Hebrews which reads:

You made [Jesus] for a little while lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet.” In “subjecting” all things (to him), he left nothing not “subject to him.” Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death, (Heb 2:7-9)

Burn With the Love of God
The last words that St. Ignatius said to his dear friend St. Francis Xavier as he sent him off to India and the Far East to save souls were: “Go set all on fire!”  The two friends would not be reunited in friendship until they met in heaven.

The saints have a double quality (a two-edged sword) within their hearts and souls: a burning and all- consuming love for God and a hunger and thirst for the salvation of immortal souls!

12 Tips for Making Advent a More Spiritual Season
The liturgical season of Advent begins on the first Sunday in Advent, opening a new year in our Church’s Calendar. The word Advent is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming” and is associated with the four weeks of preparation for Christmas.

Advent blends together a penitential spirit, very similar to Lent, a liturgical theme of preparation for the Second and Final Coming of the Lord, called the Parousia, and a joyful theme of getting ready for the birth of Christ.

Have You No fear of God?! A Meditation on the Need to Recover Salutary Fear
n yesterday’s (Sunday) Gospel, the good thief on the cross rebukes the bad thief at the other side of Jesus with a very poignant question, Have you no fear of God?.

Now this question is very well addressed to us as well; especially those of us who live in this modern age, so often marked by things like presumption. Further, with the rise of militant atheism, there is even a contemptuous dismissal of  the fact that we will ever answer to God or anyone for anything we do.

God Hidden in the Eucharist
Adoro te devote, latens Deitas — “Hidden God, I devoutly adore you” — is the first line of the famous eucharistic hymn at­tributed to St. Thomas Aquinas. Jesus promised: “I will remain with you always” (Matt. 28:20), but he does so hidden behind the disguise of transubstantiated bread.

The Advent of a Mother’s Heart
She watches and waits, a secret that is hers alone rests within.  Someone is coming, that someone has already arrived.  Her focus goes inward: to growth, to new life, to pain, yes, and to sadness, and above all to indescribable joy.  The beauty lies in the blending of the good and the bad: loneliness and connection, sorrow and comfort, moments of impenetrable darkness followed by bright blinding light

Why does God allow sin and suffering?
The most perplexing problem in apologetics is the problem of evil: 
Why would an all-good, all-powerful God allow evil to exist?

There is a real mystery here, and we can only give partial answers.

Here are some of mine . . .

Why Is Jesus Bleeding?
My three year old son was a ring bearer in a wedding a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help myself, he just looked so adorable, I think I followed him around all day smiling and snapping photos of him. I was in full on “Mommy Bliss Mode”, when the pre-ceremony tour of the the church lead to a moment that felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

“Mommy, why is Jesus bleeding?”

Oh, no.

The Human Person and Morality
Last time, we looked at our experience of beauty as a doorway into looking at God as the Good.  But, of course, there are other aspects of the Good that we experience as well.

Looking at the human person illustrates this, particularly because we are human beings, not just “impartial observers” looking at human beings. When we see this we begin to notice something besides our love of beauty: namely, morality. For we do with moral goods just what we do with all other goods: we presuppose some Ultimate Standard against which we measure moral acts and moral agents.

Five Ways Catholics Can Make a Real Difference
Do we sometimes feel overwhelmed in the face of the relentless assault on the Church, our beliefs, and our families by the media and modern culture? Is it difficult to stand up for what we believe? Do we ever feel like we can’t make a difference? Many Catholics I encounter are struggling through daily battles to live out their faith and protect their loved ones…all in the midst of a very difficult eco­nomic climate. It would be easy to throw in the towel and give up or remain silent, but that is not an option for us. We are called to do more. We are called to be holy: “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 39)

10 Reasons Every Catholic Should Read Pope Francis’ New Document
If you didn’t know, Pope Francis issued a new document today. It is entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” which means “The Joy Of The Gospel” and it is about evangelization – sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. I am not exaggerating when I say I have read almost every modern Church document and many ancient ones too. But, this is my favorite papal document I have ever read! Why? See below..

Pope venerates apostle’s relics, urges people focus on Christ
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis closed the Year of Faith by calling on people to keep Christ at the center of their lives, especially in times of trouble.

“When Jesus is at the center, light shines even the darkest moments of our lives; he gives us hope,” he said in his homily Nov. 24, the feast of Christ the King.

Full Text of Benedict XVI’s Letter to Atheist
Exclusive to the Register, we publish below the first English translation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s letter to the militant Italian atheist, Piergiorgio Odifreddi.

In September, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica printed extracts of the letter whose full contents were published in Italian on Nov. 23 by the German-language agency

The Pope Emeritus sent the letter in response to a book Odifreddi wrote in 2011 entitled Dear Pope, I’m Writing to You. The work was a critique of certain arguments and lines of thought found in Benedict’s theological writings, beginning with his 1967 volume Introduction to Christianity, and including his book Jesus of Nazareth, which he wrote as pope.

The Thrilling Tale of the “Great” Pope You’ve Never Heard Of
He hasn’t been officially canonized yet, but Pope Bl. John Paul II is already the most beloved pope of modern times, with his devotees increasingly referring to him as “John Paul the Great”. There’s a high school and a university with the name, as well as books and holy cards. There are even homilies from Cardinal Angelo Sodano and Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington D.C. archived on the Vatican’s website that use the title.

The title is quite the honor and should not be taken lightly. Of the 266 men who have ruled from the throne of St. Peter, only three of them have “Great” attached to the end of their names. All three lived in the first millenium, and all three lived within just a few centuries of each other. That’s right: until John Paul II, no pope in the last 1100 years of the Church merited the high honor.

Take Jesus to Work Because the Devil Will be There
What’s God got to do with business?  After all, not everyone even believes in him. So, why should God have a place in the workday?   A big reason is because the devil never calls in sick for work.  He is there every day.  He is present in the gossip around the water cooler.  He is a matchmaker for office affairs.  The devil likes to create momentum that makes one feel like there is no other way or no turning back.  He encourages lying, prideful ambition, greed, jealousy, stealing, and stifling a conscience. Cheating a boss out of work time, doctoring records, giving less than your best…are all in a day’s work for the devil.

How did Lucifer Become Satan? (Thomas Aquinas answers)
The Sacred Scriptures teach that there good angels and bad angels. The bifurcation of angels into good angels (like Saint Michael) and bad angels (like Satan) is discussed by Saint Thomas at Summa theologiae I, qq. 63-64. Let’s take a look.
Following passages from the Old and New Testament, Saint Thomas teaches that the angels were tested. Some angels adhered to God and were rewarded with the beatific vision of God’s essence (good angels) and some rebelled and lost grace (bad angels or demons). According to Christian tradition, Satan was once a seraph and the highest angel of all.

Pope Francis Announces the Year for Consecrated Life
Pope Francis, speaking this morning to Superiors of religious orders from around the world, announced that the coming year will be dedicated to Consecrated Life.

The occasion was the 82nd General Assembly of the Union of Superiors General, which is meeting in the Salesianum, a hotel and conference center in Rome, on November 27-29.  The Holy Father had been expected to speak for just a few minutes; instead, he chose to meet with the Superiors for three hours, engaging in a “long, colloquial and fraternal discussion…composed of questions and answers

Vatican, Google team up to bring ancient Christian catacombs to light
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Early Christian burial sites are now easier to see, both in person and via the Internet, thanks to 21st-century technology and collaboration between Google and the Vatican.

“This is perhaps the sign of the joining of two extremes, remote antiquity and modernity,” said Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi Nov. 19, at a news conference at the Catacombs of Priscilla in northeast Rome.

7 Basic Strategies for Survival at Mass with Young Children
Going to Mass with young children can be challenging, to put it nicely. Despite how that, going to Mass with young children IS Worth It. It’s not meant for fun or entertainment or even relaxation. Sometimes Mass is Calvary and sometimes it’s the Resurrection. The catch is that you don’t get to pick. You just have to try and accept it for what it is.
To encourage and support you in this holy endeavor, here are…

Whatever happened to Civility?
Bad behavior in the public square has become a crisis.  Drive-by shootings, bully-induced suicides, and road rage are manifestations of a widespread breakdown in civility between people.  Violent crime, especially of indiscriminate mass execution type shootings, is becoming almost commonplace.

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