First Sunday of Advent (Cycle C)

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The Ascension of Christ - by PERUGINO, Pietro - from Musée Municipal des Beaux-Arts, Lyon
The Ascension of Christ prefigures His Second Coming in today's Gospel Reading -

"This Jesus Who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw Him go up into the heavens."

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

Jeremiah 33:14-16

I will cause a Good Seed to spring forth from David. The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah. In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a Just Shoot; He shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: "The Lord our Justice".

 

1Thessalonians 3:12-4:2

When Christ comes may He strengthen your hearts in holiness. May the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May He strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.

Now, my brothers, we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, even as you learned from us how to conduct yourselves in a way pleasing to God -- which you are indeed doing -- so you must learn to make still greater progress. You know the instructions we gave you in the Lord Jesus.

 

Gospel - Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to His disciples: "There will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars. 2nd_coming.png (263270 bytes) On the earth, nations will be in anguish, distraught at the roaring of the sea and the waves. Men will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the earth. The powers in the heavens will be shaken. After that, men will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with great power and glory. When these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, for your ransom is near at hand.

"Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares. The great day will suddenly close in on you like a trap. The day I speak of will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth, so be on the watch. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect, and to stand secure before the Son of Man".

 

First Sunday of Advent (Cycle C)

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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Take care that your hearts do not become drowsy, that your hearts be not weighed down. Out of synch with the rest of the of the world, out of synch with academic semesters, the financial year, the calendar year and, yes, with the sports cycles, the Church begins a new year today. Does anyone notice the difference? Does anyone care? We are reminded that our faith life is out of this world, that we are out of synch with the way the rest of the world calculates the movements of man and nature.

Our "big picture" is set between beginnings and endings that are set in another world, between the first coming of God to us in Jesus Christ and His second coming. Last Sunday we put before our eyes the reality of Christ as King of the Universe. Today we have in front of us the picture of His second coming, one that will complete the movement initiated by His first coming.

St Luke puts us in touch with Christ's advice that we carefully use this " time in between", this time between the already and the not yet. In particular St Luke wants us to hold on to the power of hope, hope in a world that offers little hope, in a world that gives us little more than tinsel and cosmetics to cover up what we ultimately, rich or poor, must face.

sunshine.gif (5039 bytes) The sun rises, the sun sets, moving from darkness to darkness. We are awake during the light. At this time of the year the days are the shortest and the nights the longest. Into that basic rhythm we place an advent wreath in our churches, lighting its candles in order to put our souls into the light of Christ. It is not the light we receive from tinsel that gives us vision, it is rather the light we receive from Heaven above, that came to rest over a little village named Bethlehem. In THAT light we have hope, a hope that guides us through the darkness of death and into the dawn of eternal life with God in Christ.

The world around us is in a mad rush to Christmas, impelling us into a financial feeding frenzy, and then when Christmas comes, has nothing further to say. Christians, on the other hand, only BEGIN to celebrate Christmas on the Feast of the Nativity. The Christian soul looks forward with hope from the coming of God, while the world looks with dread at the coming of God. Christ has turned death into a hope we can all have; the world surrenders to death with dread and a sense of defeat. The world turns on twinkling lights while Christians fling the light of Christ into the teeth of death, looking forward to Christ's coming with hope and love.

Christ has come among us. Christ lives among us. And Christ will come again in a glory that can be seen only with those who have faith's eyes, and a vision inspired by God's Holy Spirit. That light, that vision is to be had only by those who keep watchfully awake throughout the cold and darkness.

The death of a Christian is not the extinguishing of his or her light, it is merely the putting out of the lamp -- because the dawn has come. Death is a passing through the night into the dawn of Christ's Resurrection.

Every year on this Sunday, the first of the Church's new year, we begin reading from a new Gospel. Today, and for the rest of this Church year, we will be reading from St Luke's gospel.

St Luke's Gospel is the one for the poor, the underprivileged, the outcast, the ones discriminated against by the forces of this world. From the beginning, St Luke shows that the hopes of the poor, the suffering, and those the world rejects, are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. St Luke presents us with the truth that women as well as men can come to Jesus, foreigners and Gentiles as well as Jews, the despised as well as those in the " in crowd", the weak and the sinful as well as the beautiful people and the power elite. In God, ALL are loved, ALL are privileged, ALL are the chosen. Jesus is depicted as the Suffering Servant, not as the Liberator King. Love and Mercy are the currency that buys favor, not privilege and power.

There is a lot of bad news in our world; there are those around us who seek to put us down, who give us nothing but bad news about our selves. There are those around us who, with heavily burdened hearts, hearts filled with anger and shame, want to make us feel worse than they do and spare nothing in putting us down, humiliating us, and attempting to fill us with shame. There are those who think they are better than others because they belong to cliques, packs and clubs in which no one else can belong. There are those who rip hope from our hearts because they judge all others to be unworthy unless they are just like themselves, arrogant, superior, haughty, and narrowly elite. There are those who, living in darkness, aren't happy unless everyone around them is more miserable than they.

Into all of that we, as Christians, fling a light that scatters all that sort of darkness. In a world filled with superficial lights and twinkling tinsel we light the candles on the advent wreath, looking forward with hope for that day when God will come to us again in Christ to vindicate our faith, to answer our hopes, and to make us into persons far beyond we dreamed we ever could be.

 

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Take care that your hearts do not become weighed down and your spirits become extinguished. Out of synch with the rest of the of the world, out of synch with academic semesters, the financial year, the calendar year and, yes, with the sports cycles, the Church begins a new Liturgical Year today. The world around us prepares for "happy holidays", for good time parties, and for superficial presents. The gift that God is preparing for you is something far deeper. It is a gift far beyond anything this world can ever give you, a gift that lasts beyond the grave. In it we have a hope that can only come from God, a gift that can only come from God.

And in it you can become a gift that God died to receive from you. What a stupendous thing to have happened to any one of us!

 

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