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Dec 2, 2018

First Sunday of Advent (C)


Gospel LK 21:25-28, 34-36


Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”

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Reflecting & Living God’s Words


First Sunday of Advent (C)
(LK 21:25-28, 34-36)

Summary:
- Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which marks the start of a new Liturgical Year. Today’s Gospel tells us that there will be strange signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars. The nations will also be in dismay, worry, and perplexed waiting for what will happen to the earth before the day that God will come. Advent is the season of waiting; therefore God reminds us to be awake, to pray and change our lifestyles so that we are ready and prepared on the day that He will come, or on a more imminent day: the welcoming of Baby Jesus during Christmas.

Reflections:
1- Why did God say: “Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man?”
2- What should we do in preparation for the day that God comes?

Living God’s Words this week:
- Have faith and belief in God whenever you are faced with pains, difficulties, challenges, or temptations in your life.

Youth:
- Do a good deed to help your parents in order to prepare your mind and soul in the welcoming of Baby Jesus.

Prayer:
- Dear God, You’d said that humans will have to face dismay, suffering, and fear before the day that You will come. Please bless us the strength to bravely accept and endure all these things, and the faith so steady to carry on until that day. Amen.

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OUR GOD KEEPS PROMISES!


(Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25; I Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)


We have begun a new liturgical year. You will notice that we have also moved from Mark's gospel to Luke's. He wrote his gospel around 80-90 and begins his gospel (1:1-4) by saying he was not among "the original eyewitnesses and ministers of the word." He came later and, after reflecting on what he has learned, "decided to set this in writing for you."

Unlike the rapid-paced Mark, Luke has written a longer narrative that suggests readers need to take some time and leisure to reflect on what he has written. In this gospel one of the key themes is prayer; the gospel is set in a prayerful environment. Slowing down to reflect on this gospel could be our "New Year's resolution" as we begin this new liturgical year. Such a thoughtful reading can accomplish one of the purposes Luke seems to have in mind for his readers: to evoke and deepen in us a spirit of prayer and growth in discipleship as we journey with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.

But with that being said, we have an abrupt entrance into Luke's gospel today. It's scary!

The world Luke is describing is falling apart, with cosmic signs and a warning to us, "For that date will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth." Then Luke gives us a warning, ". pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations [there's more than one!] that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man." Where's the good news in that!

This new liturgical year doesn't open with an early passage in Luke's gospel, as we might expect, but one from a later chapter. What's going on? It's Advent and being prepared and vigilant is one of the prominent themes of Advent. Throughout this season we will be told to avoid idleness, distractions and to remain alert.

Today's gospel passages apocalyptic and a reminder to us that all worlds will end -- our communal as well as our personal worlds, and so we are being urged to vigilant, steadfast commitment. The cataclysm that will announce the end time is cosmic in scope and will affect, not only the world around us, but the sun, moon and stars as well. That means everyone will be affected and the events will frighten all ("on earth nations will be in dismay"). Luke is describing apocalyptic signs that readers of the Old Testament will recognize. People might expect that the coming of the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14) would begin a severe period of punishment. But what is stressed is the fidelity of disciples who do not waver in their faith and remain vigilant. They will experience their long-awaited redemption.

A week before Thanksgiving I saw Christmas trees and poinsettias in our nearby shopping center. The frenetic aspects of Christmas have already begun and can easily distract us from the Advent season in which we will also spend the next four weeks. No wonder then that we are presented with today's readings. They seem to want to shake us, stare us in the face and say to us, "Wake up! Stay focused, or you'll miss the good news of this graced season." Or, as Jesus says today, "Be vigilant at all times.."

While Christmas preparations are unavoidable we need to work on living in the present and not let the season's hyperactivity shift our attention too much to the future holidays. With all the tinsel, mall music and children lined up to see Santa, that will be difficult. As we buy gifts and send Christmas cards to family and friends we keep a kind of vigilance, calling to mind our special ones and giving thanks for the presence and presents they are to us all year-round.

Our loved ones often are our rock of security and firm footing in a constantly changing world. When our own world is shaken and what has seemed secure (like sun, moon and stars) no longer is for us, then it is those closest to us by blood, friendship and religious community who help us "stand erect and raise our heads" to see the nearness of our Christ.

A widow said that after the death of her husband she was too undone to pray. But she went to church anyhow and let the community around her at Mass pray and sing hymns. She said they would not have known how much they helped. Their "vigilance" supported her while she was occupied in her grief. Their prayer was her strength helping her deal with the "tribulations that are imminent." Standing with those fateful disciples helped this grieving woman "stand before the Son of Man."

At this time of the year and especially in moments of tribulation, we can forget that Christ is present to us. We will celebrate his birth of Christmas, but through baptism we have already experienced his birth in our lives right now. It is the present and ever-renewing waters of baptism that enable us to respond when Jesus tells us, "Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."

Our selection today from Jeremiah is short and to the point. The people of Judah, the southern kingdom, needed is hope because their kinsfolk in the northern kingdom were already conquered and the Babylonians were getting ready to move on the south. The people were growing anxious; when would God come to help them? While the date of God's intervention is not given, there is little doubt in Jeremiah's message that it will happen.

Jeremiah isn't interested in speculating about some event in the future date; he is a prophet and prophets speak God's word to the present generation. His addressing both the northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms reminds them of God's promise to raise up a just king in the line of King David. We can hear in the promise of a "just shoot," a king who "shall do what is right and just in the land." The people's longed for a ruler who would guide them in God's ways. They were in despair and their kings did nothing to turn them from idolatry to a renewal of the covenant with God. Because of their political intrigues and poor judgment the nation's rulers provoked the Babylonians, who then came and overran them.

Jeremiah was promising a reunited nation led by a just king, a "just shoot." When he arrived and the people changed their ways, the restored Jerusalem would be given a new name, "The Lord our Justice." Despite the people's adulterous affairs with foreign gods and the resulting brokenness that followed, God, Jeremiah promised, is just, would come to heal the people and forgive their sin.

Jeremiah begins Advent for us by inviting us to look over our present and past infidelities and compromises and put hope in his words: God is coming to heal us, not based on our own goodness, but on the justice of God. What God has promised, God will do. We pray this Advent that like the renamed city of Jerusalem, our lives will bear witness to our gracious God and, from this experience, we too will be given a new name that proclaims "the Lord our Justice." Our God sets us right; our God keeps promises!

Fr. Jude Siciliano, OP