1. Isaiah 63, 16-17 and 19, then 64, 2-7
- For you have hidden your face
from us. I hear an urgent appeal filled with grief. The people have become
withered like leaves, carried away by the wind.
- And yet they do not give up hope. Return
for the sake of your servants. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds.
- The prophet asks God for a theophany as in the days of Moses
and Elijah. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before
- He expresses deep feelings, in the name of a people whose ambitions had
been frustrated, even trampled upon, by the empires of history. Over the years I have witnessed and shared
the private griefs of those forced to leave their country, those whose homes have been destroyed by hurricane and await long
promised relief, those who have lost their spouse or parent or child to the ravages of war. Why
do you let us wander? How can I read these words without feeling?
- I read this lengthy
passage once during a liturgy in Costa Rica, doing it in such a way that the homilist was obliged to comment on it.
Given a confession charged with such sincere emotion, it was not hard for me to read with feeling. At
times like that I came to understand that proclamation in its fullest sense includes reception of the word as well as effective
- Central theme: At the beginning and end of the passage I hear the prophet affirming God: You
are our Father. There must be a reason why we never hear the word “believe”
in the Hebrew Testament. God’s abiding love for Israel is as self-evident as the rising of the sun
every day. To talk about faith, in the face of such an overwhelming presence, is to insult God.
- Message for our
assembly: If our faith comes too easy for us, then something must be lacking in it – something more needed, as Jesus
said to the young man. Israel in its anguish and its enduring hope will remind us that our faith must be
grounded in God’s will, carried out in God’s own time.
- I will challenge myself: To imitate the invincible
trust of the people of Israel, leading the congregation through the depths of misfortune, the silence and self-doubt, to the
true God who is always with us – Emmanuel.
I Corinthians 1, 3-9
- The apostle repeats the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
five times. How can I say it so that each saying will sound deliberate, and not like the sloganeering of
an inexperienced public speaker?
- This is the same community that was not lacking in any spiritual gift.
And the apostle is glad for such abundance: I give thanks to my God always. But
they need reminding that underlying their gifts is the call to fellowship with God’s Son. All
that we share with each other, every spiritual gift, every act of generosity toward our neighbor, get their meaning from him.
wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the whole world will
find its meaning on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. This appearance, and our transformation,
is the theme of Advent itself, repeated here in various ways. The grace of God bestowed on you
in Christ Jesus. He will keep you firm to the end. God
is faithful; by him you were called to fellowship with his Son.
- The message for our assembly: Christ belongs not just in the
center of the Christmas celebration, but in the center of all seasons. We cannot let ourselves be distracted
by the coming orgy of gift-giving (to ourselves and others), or by the countless parties and receptions that begin right now,
when we should be reserving for Christ the place of honor that gives purpose to everything we do.
- Central theme: Christ is the beginning and end
of our lives.
will challenge myself: To pronounce with warmth and freshness today the apostle’s ancient words of assurance to a church
that he deeply loves.
Gospel. Mark 13, 33-37
watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. May
he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. I say to all: Watch! These are
insistent, sobering words from Jesus today. He should know about sudden events, since his words come just
before the narration of his Passion and Death.
- Everyone in our congregation has learned the importance of vigilance in
our modern world. We keep a close eye on our wealth and property. We especially take
precautions for our personal safety in a city that, as the media love to remind us, is filled with danger.
- And we are fully
aware that we know so little about the secret designs of others. That is why it will not be hard to confirm
today the words of Jesus: You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming. Not that
God’s designs are secret! God just takes longer to speak the final decisive word.
- I will evoke this sense
of vigilance in my listeners, as I say the words The time will come. The suspense will
mount in my voice as I count down the time: in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow or in the morning.
- Central theme: Vigilance
is the touchstone of Advent.
- Message for our assembly: We must be ready for Jesus’ return, readier than
we are for any worldly goals, readier than we are to shop for Christmas, truly poor in spirit.
- I will challenge myself: To take a cue from
the stubborn insistence that our president and vice-president use in their speeches, outdoing their worldly zeal as I repeat
the admonishing words of Jesus to the assembly.
to Eucharist: Let us remind ourselves that our union around the table today is a foretaste of the union still to come.