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Advent 1 (C)
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Readings for the First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C

 

1. Jeremiah 33, 14-16

  • The days are coming.  Today’s ‘Word of the Lord’ begins on a high note, with the very words of the Lord.  They are uttered by the prophet who spoke openly and often of defeat and exile.  Let me recall one of the ways we put the best face on our own disappointment (“Wait till next year!”).  And I know I can guarantee a reversal of fortune, because God pledges that it will happen.
  • I will fulfill the promise I made.  We begin Advent today, and we believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise. 
  • Raise up (for David) a just shoot.  Everything God builds takes a lot of time and achieves permanence.  I will rehearse this phrase, stretching it out to simulate the new seedling rising out of the earth.  I will emphasize ‘raise up’ to allow my listeners to make some sense out of the odd-sounding phrase ‘just shoot.’  To forestall a Second Amendment interpretation, I move on immediately to the prophet’s explanation (For) He shall do what is right.’
  • Safe secure.  I work in a bank and I use these words with my business customers.  But it is God who defines the words for us now.  We are not dealing with business transactions, and most certainly not with missile defenses or great walls or armed guards, but with a transparent world of shalom, peace and justice.  Can I let down my defenses as I read this? 
  • Judah, Jerusalem, Israel are names of a small city and nation that many empires wanted to sweep away.  God and the faithful believers wanted otherwise.  As the pope visits a country in which so many ancient beloved Christian names have been lost, I know that our mission is not to repeat dusty footnotes of history, but to remember the names, reclaim our roots, absorb them into our heart and soul.
  • The Lord our justice.  God defines the future of the people.  God wants its survival!  But it will be on God’s terms: ‘justice.’  How will this happen in a nation that has armed itself to the teeth?  What will we do about it?
  • Climax: In those days, in that time.  Three times I hear variations of this.  How can I indicate to my listeners that God means “here and now”?  I can suggest it by my pauses and intensity.
  • Message for our assembly: If The Lord our justice is the name, do we act as if it is so?  What is the real world for which we prepare ourselves and our children?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak convincingly about this time and its fulfillment.

 

2. I Thessalonians 3, 12 to 4, 2

  • Increase and abound in love.  In the first book of the New Testament, we have the perfect message for living the last days.  I don’t hear the words ‘stay the course’ here.  That you do so even more.  Mediocrity is out, excellence is in. 
  • I hear very little about concrete behaviors in these verses, but I do get a sense of the general guides that should inform our behavior.  ‘Love’ is for one another and for all.  The guides would include: helping each other, bringing everyone along, acting in solidarity.  The apostle says the plural You ten times.  He wants the whole community to be blameless in holiness. 
  • Just as we have for you.  Three times I hear the apostle remind the church of how he and his companions left an example of concern and upright conduct.  They should not be at a loss about what to do!  These words could also refer to us: For you know.
  • For the second week in a row we hear an affirmation: Amen.  I will gladly cue the assembly so that it may also affirm its mission of holiness before our God.
  • As you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God – and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even more.  I think the apostle wants to praise as well as challenge the Thessalonians.  He dictated these words and it sounds like it.  I will make it sound the same way.
  • The message for our assembly: Let us look around and acknowledge our responsibility for each other.  We know about our blood family, but what about the people we barely know who pray with us today?
  • Climax: At the coming of our Lord Jesus.  In crisis times we peel back to essential behavior. 
  • I will challenge myself: To deliver these general guides in such a way that the congregation knows exactly how they should behave.

 

Gospel.  Luke 21, 25-28 and 34-36

  • Jesus has some strong words today.  People will die of fright.  Am I listening?  Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars.  Do I hear a myth based on the way people used to imagine the universe, or do I hear the meaning behind it?
  • We have seen the birth and death of stars in marvelous photos from the Hubble telescope.  Some are destroyed and others are re-created, and they all appear as random occurrences.  The kind of end proclaimed by the evangelist has a purpose, though, and that is your redemption. 
  • Nations will be in dismay.  That much sounds like an op-ed in today’s paper.  The roaring of the sea and the waves happens every fall in my city and will happen with more intensity in the future.  I don’t need to over-dramatize it.
  • Let me save my thunder for the message behind these events.  The powers of the heavens will be shaken.  They will see the Son of Man coming.  We have heard this in our liturgies in recent weeks.  Our media report the daily march of events but say nothing of a final ending.  Sorry, Minister Hagee: It will be on God’s terms, not ours.
  • Jesus reminds us to be alert in the midst of all this.  Do not become drowsy, catch you by surprise like a trap, be vigilant at all times and pray. 
  • Climax: Stand erect and raise your heads.  I can show the way with my posture.  I will show attention, but also relief and deep joy in my face as I say it.
  • Message for our assembly: Advent is not a time for feeling drowsy.  It is more than a preparation time for Christmas.  It is a tutorial for a permanent lifestyle.
  • I will challenge myself: To wake up some of my listeners and remind them of the finality of our earthly existence, of the tribulations that are imminent.

 

  • Toward the Eucharist:  We begin Advent as a people awaiting the final coming of Christ.  Every time we join in the meal we announce our longing for him.  And it is especially in our sharing of the meal – and our transformation at that meal – that God’s promises of security and justice come true.

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