Saturday, November 29, 2014

First Sunday of Advent

Is 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7
Ps 80
1 Cor 1:3-9
Mk 13:33-37

Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!

"O come o come Emmanuel! 
And ransom captive Israel!"

Today is the first day of Advent, the first day of the new Church year.   In the lectionary it is the first day of year B readings, the year during which the majority of Sunday Gospel readings will be from Mark.  Unlike Lent, a season that begins with the visible imposition of ashes and special liturgies, Advent simply begins. It begins on the first of the four Sundays preceding the Great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.  Advent ends with the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, the commemoration of Jesus’ flesh and blood arrival in this world.  Advent ends with the commemoration that Jesus, fully Divine and fully human was born into, and lived on, this planet where we now live and breathe, study and work, celebrate and mourn. 

The Latin roots of the word advent: ad and venire mean “to come to.”  But that translation does not convey the full meaning of Advent.  Pope Benedict writes that advent is the translation of the Greek word parousia which means presence, but even more specifically means arrival. 

Arrival is the beginning of another’s presence.
It is not the fullness of that presence.

Think about it. 

Arrival is the beginning of another’s presence, 
it is not the fullness of that presence. 

The birth of a baby is only the beginning of a presence that will change and mold a family continuously over the life of the family unit and beyond it.  Perhaps presence is never full but is always becoming, perhaps presence is never complete but always changing and evolving, whether the other is physically present or not. 

We have all been, and are even now being, influenced by the presence of others who are physically distant or even dead.  Parents.  Teachers.  Mentors.  Friends.  Though not sharing space with us, perhaps never again able to share physical space with us, their presence in our lives is tangible.  Their presence influences how we live our lives.  Their presence may determine our decisions and our actions.  Their presence in our lives may soothe and comfort us during times of stress or may be a permanent source of anxiety and pain.  It all depends.  It is impossible not to respond to another’s presence.  Even “ignoring” another’s presence is a response to it. 

Jesus’ presence is an advent presence.  A presence of “coming to.”  During advent we become particularly aware that Jesus is becoming present to this world, that Jesus is becoming present in this place.  But, it is only the beginning not the fullness of His presence. That fullness will only be known when each of us passes from life into eternal life. That fullness will be known only after the universe has ceased to exist.

Jesus’ presence in our lives is threefold.  We need only look around, we need only listen to experience that triple presence.  Jesus is present in the community of believers when the Church prays as one.  Jesus is present in the Word as it is proclaimed at Mass.  And, most tangibly, Jesus is present, truly and substantially present, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist that will be consecrated, broken, and shared soon.  

The first reading and the Gospel are united by a common thread.  They mark the first time in this new liturgical year, that we will be reminded to be ready when the Lord comes.  From Isaiah we heard, "Would that you might meet us doing right.  That we were mindful of you in our ways."  The Gospel is more explicit. "Be watchful, be alert.  You do not know when the time will come."  We must be vigilant.  We truly do not know the day or the hour in which we will be asked to give a full account of our lives.  We can only remain prepared at all times. 

As advent progresses toward the great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord we will hear readings that remind us of those final things that are to come.  We will hear of the end times as we do today.  On the second and third Sundays the Gospel will focus on John the Baptist, the herald.  And on the fourth Sunday the Gospel will speak of the Annunciation to Mary when we will again hear the words of Mary's fiat, words that changed the nature of the universe once and forever.

As you leave this church today and during the coming weeks, recall and consider that despite the pressure from advertisers, regardless of the pressure we place on ourselves, outside the carousing and drunkenness of the annual “Holiday” party, and ignoring the increasing restrictions on using the word Christmas in the public forum, advent is not the time of preparation for a holiday.  It is the time of preparation for a Holy Day.  We are preparing to commemorate the birth of the Messiah, the anointed one, Son of God, Son of David, Son of Man, who was born of woman, like us in all things but sin, who became man to ransom us from sin and death. 

Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
 Am posting a bit early.  The only way to describe the coming week is overcommitted.  Masses every day (a few tomorrow) and a retreat for the Carmelites of the Aged and Infirm from Wednesday to Friday.  Breakfast with friends passing through on Thursday AM and a few other commitments.  C'est la vie.   Monday is the Feast (for Jesuits) of Edmund Campion, Robert Southwell, and Companions.  Will post another homily then. 

The snow arrived the night before Thanksgiving into the early morning hours.  Ignatius wanted pictures of the snow.  So, I took some.  Drove to Marblehead for dinner as per usual, stopping at Revere (pronounced Ruh veahh) Beach and Swampscott Beach on the way up. Great dinner.  Got back at 8 PM and watched football.  

Going over to breakfast just after the sun climbed above the level of the building. 

 A self-portrait in the door to the basement of the big house.

Revere Beach.  The first is high-rise apartments along the beach.  The other two are studies of benches under a pavilion that overlooks the ocean.  Benches unoccupied for a good reason.  It was cold.  Not as cold as today but plenty cold. 

Boston skyline from the beach at Swampscott, 12 miles to the north. 

+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD

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