FIRST READING (Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!)
A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)
You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old. No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him. Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. (Ps 80:4)
O shepherd of Israel, hearken, from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power, and come to save us. (R)
Once again, O Lord of hosts, look down from heaven, and see; take care of this vine, and protect what your right hand has planted, the son of man whom you yourself made strong. (R)
May your help be with the man of your right hand, with the son of man whom you yourself made strong. Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life, and we will call upon your name. (R)
SECOND READING (We wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (1:3-9)
Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Ps 85:8)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Show us, Lord, your love; and grant us your salvation. (R)
GOSPEL (Be watchful! You do not know when the lord of the house is coming.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (13:33-37)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“There’s a New World Coming!”
Have you ever thought about how much time we all spend “waiting”…? As children we could hardly wait for annual birthdays, or free days from school, or holidays and summer vacations. As teenagers, we could hardly wait to grow up and be free and on our own. As adults we wait and wat, for buses and trains, for airplanes (ah… remember when we could wait for airplanes??), we wait for doctors’ and dentists’ appointments. We wait on lines for different services… we wait and we wait. At times we wait for something to happen; at other times we wait for something to stop happening like a virus! Sometimes too we are waiting for a future to unfold and this too is a common human experience.
The season of ADVENT is a time of waiting. But what are we waiting for? Surely, it is not simple a time of waiting for the annual celebrations marking the birth of Christ, for that event has taken place. Nor is it a time for the waiting for the end of the world, as some think or claim. The readings we hear each week in Advent speak to us about the appearance of the reign of God in our lives. We believe that this reign dawned for us with the historic birth of Christ, and that is why we look forward to the feast of Christmas each year and celebrate its importance for us. We believe that this reign of God issues in a new era of grace, and that is why we reflect on the end times. The reign of God is always unfolding before our eyes, and so we are always looking for its appearance; we are always hoping for a time of reconciliation and a time of genuine peace, a time of mutual respect and cooperation. Advent is a time of waiting for this new world to appear.
We long for such a new world because we can no longer tolerate the one in which we live. Our present world is one of violence and discord, of hatred and distrust, of dishonesty and greed, a world that seems to make victims of the most vulnerable. From the midst of such pain, the prophet Isaiah invites us to cry out to God in complaint: “Why have you not protected us? Why have you permitted such evils to occur? Why have you allowed things to get so bad?”
Though today we seldom use formal lament in public prayer, the ancient Israelites certainly did and did it often. They did now have any problem complaining to God. And why not? To whom else, if not to God, should we turn when we are oppressed and overburdened, and when we feel hopeless? Who better than God can remedy the personal and social ills that we face and must endure day after day, year after year? Religious souls lament the apparent absence of God in the workings of the world. Tender hearts lament the fate of those who have been afflicted or marginalized in society. Broken spirits lament the suffering that touches every life. Through the ages believers have cried out: “Where is God?” or directing their complaint to God have demanded, “How long O Lord?” The readings for us on this First Sunday for Advent help us to acknowledge the difficulties that face us in life, difficulties that we often these days more and more crushing. Advent is a time for us to lament these difficulties.
While the readings direct us to acknowledge the pain we feel, they do not allow us to become fixated on it. Instead, we are invited to turn our gaze to the hope of a brighter future. The images of God employed in these readings encourage us to do this. The very character of these images enables us to move from our initial complaint to expressions of confidence. Isaiah addresses God both as the father who has given us life and wo cares for us, and as an artisan wo has fashioned us as works of art in his image. The psalmist depicts God as a shepherd who is attentive of his sheep, as a vinedresser who works diligently for the health and productivity of his vines, and as an imperial ruler and military captain who are committed to the welfare of their people. These images are meant to assure us of God’s loving concern. Our waiting for a new world may at times seem tedious and sometimes even be discouraging, but we should not be disheartened for God is there for us.
When will the revelation of Jesus Christ appear? When will this promised new world arrive? When will the “Day of the Lord” dawn? We do not for sure, and we must wait with patient expectation; we must wait in joyful hope that it will come soon. And what should we do while we wait? In the Gospel story today the servants for not wait idly. They assume responsibility for the work of the household. Today, we are responsible for the natural world of which we are a part, for the society to which we belong, and for the world of the church for which we are members. As overwhelming as this task may seem today, St. Paul reminds us that we have all of the gifts and talents that we need to live faithfully in this world: “You are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ!”
We are encouraged to await and prepare for the day of fulfillment like young parents awaiting the birth of a child. We wait for that day together with others in our community. This means that we are all waiting in a spirit of vigilance, waiting for justice, while being compassionate to all around us, and yes, being ready to forgive those who may have offended us in the past. We live between the time of Christ’s first coming and the time of final fulfillment, in an “in-between” state of ambiguity and hope. We believe that the future is worth waiting for, a future worth moving towards. Relying on God’s promises to us, we firmly believe that there is indeed a new world coming, and the one in which we now live is coming to an end. We might not know exactly when this will happen but it might be just around the bend!
Celebrant: As Advent begins, we hear our Lord challenging us to be alert and ready for Him. The prayers we offer for others express a faith that is attentive and alive.
READER: That the holy Catholic Church may be united in fidelity to the Holy Father and Bishops, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That the Shepherd of Israel, the Lord of Hosts, may rouse his power among the nations, giving new light and strength to their leaders to make decisions of life, morality and justice, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That people distracted by worldly pleasures may return to the saving grace of the Holy Spirit. (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That each of us gathered here may seek pardon and peace in the sacrament of penance, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: As we come to the end of November and the month of prayers for the Poor Souls, we pray that the eternal light of salvation may shine upon those who have died, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Hear our prayers, loving Father, as we prepare for the return of your Son, by hearing his word and offering his sacrifice at this altar. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.