|1st Sunday of Advent, 27 Nov 2016|
From the Dean’s Desk
We begin today a new season of the Church’s liturgical year. Advent is a time of preparation for the birth of the Prince of Peace at Christmas. Unfortunately, we celebrate this season during a fairly busy period of the year, and if we are not careful, Advent can come and go without much attention from us. We can find ourselves planning for all types of events, from holidays, through to the Christmas lunch menu and the plethora of gifts that have to be bought for an ever increasing list of people. This year we have four full weeks of Advent, which presents us with a challenge to make time for preparing for the Lord’s coming at Christmas.
In this first Sunday of Advent we are presented with certain announcements in the form of visions. The first reading from Isaiah [2:1-5] includes a vision of a mountain that becomes a refuge for all nations. This refuge will include an amount of formation in the ways of the Lord: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord…that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ The ways and paths of the Lord lead to an establishment of a peace-filled society, as we hear Isaiah announcing not only the end of war and conflict but also the need and training for war: ‘these will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.’ This occurs simply because people now ‘walk in the light of the Lord.’
For us to achieve this task requires of us to take seriously Paul’s announcement in our second reading [Romans 13:11-1]. Here Paul invites us to a level of awareness that our salvation is near at hand. He emphasises this by placing before us the opposites of light and darkness. He tells us that the darkness is receding and that the light has begun to shine in our lives. Therefore, taking up the theme of Isaiah, Paul invites us to act as if we were living in light and not darkness – to walk in the light of the Lord.
Our Gospel today is surprisingly from the end of Matthew’s work rather than from his infancy narratives [25:37-44]. This passage is one that we are more likely to hear at the end of the liturgical year rather than at the beginning, for it entails the elements of staying awake and alert to the signs of the times, unlike the people at the time of Noah, who failed to heed the message of conversion and repentance. It speaks more of the end times – ‘stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’- rather than of the birth of Jesus.
Our readings on this first Sunday of Advent invite us to make some room for meditation and reflection on the meaning of Jesus’ birth for us. They invite us to see if we are prepared to take up the invitation to ‘go to the mountain of the Lord’ and to share in his dream of establishing a peace-filled world, beginning with ourselves. They challenge us to see that the darkness of sin and evil are not present in our lives and that we continue to walk in the light of the ways of the Lord, eradicating everything that allows the darkness to creep back into our lives. They invite us to be attentive and aware of the signs of the times and to live good and irreproachable lives. And, dear friends, what do I need to do to allow all this to happen in my life. It entails a dedicated commitment to make some formative and reflective time with and for the Lord. These four weeks can certainly become inspirational and spiritual moments for us as we await the birth of Jesus at Christmas.
Fr Robert Bossini