First Sunday of Advent (C)
December 2, 2018

First Reading (Jeremiah 33: 14-16)

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.”

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-10, 14)

Refrain: To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

1) Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day. (Refrain)

2) Good and upright is the Lord; thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way. (Refrain)

3) All the paths of the Lord are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees.
The friendship of the Lord is with those who fear him, and his covenant, for their instruction. (Refrain)

Second Reading (1 Thessalonians 3: 12 - 4: 2)

Brothers and sisters: May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. Finally, brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God —and as you are conducting yourselves— you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through 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, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.

The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved.

Used with permission of ICEL.)

Resources:

Catechism: #'s 547-550 (signs of the Kingdom of God); 678-682 (to judge the living and the dead); 1038-1041 (the last judgment); & 1145-1152 (signs). United States Catholic Conference, Washington, DC: 1994.
The Gospel of Luke, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY. 1975.
The Letters to the Thessalonians, by William Barclay. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY. 1975.
Deciding and Waiting, by William J. Bausch. From Storytelling the Word, pp. 243-246. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT. 06355: 1996.

Homiletic Ideas:

- Advent is a season of preparation: we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.
- True sign as opposed to a false sign.
- Last week, the Feast of Christ the King, we looked at several of the principal themes in the gospel of John. John had directed his gospel to a Gentile audience, one that was either Greek in origin or that knew Greek and some of the themes common to Greek literature and philosophy. These themes included truth and the beliefs that there exists a supreme logos, or reason, and that there are two worlds: the world that we see and the unseen world of the supreme logos.
- In the gospel, our Lord is obviously using the word sign to mean an omen or portent of things to come.

Homily

Signs of Things To Come

Since today is the beginning of the Church's new liturgical year, it might be helpful to consider the "reason for the season" of Advent. The Roman Calendar tells us that: "Advent has a twofold character: as a season to prepare for Christmas when Christ's first coming to us is remembered, and secondly, as a season when that remembrance directs us to await Christ's second coming at the end of time." (1) During the first few centuries of the church's history, pagans observed a manifestation of the divinity that came to dwell in its temple at a certain time each year. The feast which honored this divinity was called adventus. Thus, as the church year evolved, the word adventus was available to describe the second coming of the Son of God in the temple of his flesh. As we look ahead into the season of Advent, we see that this twofold aspect is reinforced by the readings for each of the four weeks: on the First and Second Sundays of Advent, the focus of the readings is on the second coming of Christ at the end of time, while on the remaining Sundays, the purpose of the readings is to prepare us to celebrate the first arrival of Christ at Christmas. (2)

If we look at today's readings, we see that they are addressing Christ's Second Coming. The first reading from Jeremiah speaks about the coming of the Savior to rescue his people. In the second reading from his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says "May the Lord strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all his saints." Then the gospel speaks of the end of the world. Two weeks ago, we closed out the church's liturgical year of Ordinary Time with a passage from the gospel of Mark which was very similar in theme to today's passage from Luke: both focus on Christ's second coming, or parousia. However, Luke uses a word which Mark does not. Luke says there will be "signs in the sun and moon and stars". Webster's dictionary defines a sign as an indication; a conventional mark, figure or symbol used as an abbreviation for the word or words that it represents; an omen or portent.

There are two types of signs. The first kind of sign are the external signs around us as we perceive them. For example, perhaps some of you have visited a store recently. Don't you get the unequivocal idea that they might be preparing for something special? You know what that special something is, of course. So you might say that there are "signs of things to come" in the music on the PA system, the lights, the ornaments and the other decorations. When we speak to one another, we look for signs from them that they have understood what we were saying. Thus, the origin of "body language", among other signs which we perceive.

In the same way, the Hebrews were always looking for evidences of God's favor and approval, and the resulting health and prosperity and survival of the people and the nation. They saw calamity and defeat, pestilence, drought and famine as indications or "signs" of God's displeasure. And conversely, the times of prosperity and plenty were seen as evidence of God's favor. Thus, in difficult times, the people often grew more spiritually, while in times of prosperity, they tended to forget God. Time and again, the leaders of the people interpreted events and phenomena as indications of God's leadership - that they were a "people under God", so to speak. There are countless examples of God's signs in the Hebrew Scriptures: Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud to guide them by day and a pillar of fire at night. When they grew hungry, God sent the "manna" as a sign of his benevolence.

In John's gospel, there are seven signs which give us various indications of the purposes of Christ's life. "Sign" is the word used by John for the wondrous deeds of Jesus. The first sign is the transformation of water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11), which symbolizes the entire creative and transforming work of Jesus. The second sign, the cure of the royal official's son (John 4:46-54) simply by the word of Jesus at a distance, signifies the power of Jesus' life-giving word.

The third sign, the cure of the paralytic at the pool with five porticoes in chapter 5, continues the theme of the water of baptism offering newness of life. John 6 contains two signs: the multiplication of loaves and the walking on the waters of the Sea of Galilee. These signs symbolize a new exodus from the slavery of sin into the Promised Land of everlasting life through the new manna of Christ's Body. The sixth sign is presented in John 9, the healing of the young man born blind, which proclaims the triumph of light over darkness, and John presents Jesus as the Light of the world. And finally, the seventh sign, the raising of Lazarus in chapter 11, is the climax of all the signs. Lazarus is a symbol of the real life that Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life - who will now be put to death because of his gift of life to Lazarus - will give to all who believe in him once he has been raised from the dead.

Thus, the whole gospel of John is a progressive revelation of the glory of God's only Son, who comes to reveal the Father and then returns in glory to the Father. The evangelist's purpose is clearly expressed in what must have been the original ending of the gospel at the end of John 20: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of [his] disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may [come to] believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief, you may have life in his name." (3)

So the First Sunday of Advent begins with signs and these signs continue right through the Christmas season. First of all, the angels announce to the shepherds that a sign will be provided to them: they will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And the season concludes with the sign being provided to the magi in the form of a star in the east. (4)

So the first type of signs are the ones which we perceive around us, which impinge on our conciousness, as it were. The second type of sign is alluded to in the second reading where Paul says to the Thessalonians: "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all." Love is a sign of our caring for one another. It is the outward sign and manifestation of the internal love of God which resides in our hearts. Thus, the second type of sign are those which emanate, or go out, from us.

So what does all of this have to do with us? Well, as we prepare for the coming of our Lord first at this blessed time of the year and ultimately at our own judgment day, we ought to ask ourselves "What are the signs that others will see in my own life?" There were seven signs which were written in the gospel of John. But there's another gospel which each of us writes each and every day that is even more important.

References:

1. Calendarium romanum, 1969, number 39.
2. The Days of the Lord, Volume 1, pp. 21-32, 51-58. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN., 1991. Used with permission.
3. From the Introduction to the Gospel of John, from the New American Bible, copyrights 1970, 1986, 1991 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, D.C. (The idea for the use of this intro came from Adele Hustis, whose sermon "Roadsigns on the Way" can be viewed in its entirety on my web page.)
4. From Good News, by Rev. Joseph T. Nolan. Liturgical Publications, Inc., 2875 South James Drive, New Berlin, WI. 53151.
5. The Gospel According to You. Reprinted with permission from A Fresh Packet of Sower's Seeds, Third Planting. p. 6-7. Copyright 1994 by Brian Cavanaugh, T.O.R, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ 07430.

(Copyright 2012 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net.)

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

Penitential Rite:

Lord Jesus, you will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. Lord, have mercy.

Christ Jesus, you are the branch of Jesse's stem who came to deliver us from the death of sin. Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you are the Lord of righteousness and justice. Lord, have mercy.

First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2018

Prayers of the Faithful

Celebrant: As we prepare for the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at Christmas and for his second coming at the end of the world, let us confidently bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.

Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, hear our prayer."

That the leaders of the Church will help us to use this Advent season to prepare our hearts as a fitting place for the Lord, we pray to the Lord.

That the leaders of the nations of the world will treat all those under their care with justice and respect, we pray to the Lord.

That the sick, the elderly and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find comfort in their faith, we pray to the Lord.

That the Lord may increase our love for one another and especially for those in need at this blessed time of the year, we pray to the Lord.

That the Lord will continue to bless and strengthen all caregivers who so selflessly serve the needs of others, we pray to the Lord.

That all of those who have been affected by natural disasters will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives, we pray to the Lord.

For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Almighty Father, you sent your Son to teach us how to live so that none should be lost and that all should be saved. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to live each day as if it were our last and to act accordingly. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.