December 1st 2019



  1. Parish Bulletin for Holy Family
  2. Newsletter for St Benedict's
  3. This Sunday's Readings
  4. Sunday Reflection

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This Sunday's Readings

FIRST READING             From the book of the Prophet Isaiah (2:1-5)

The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of the Lord shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths; since the Law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of the Lord from Jerusalem'. He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war. O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

SECOND READING          From the Letter of Paul to the Romans (13:11-14)

You know 'the time' has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted. The night is almost over, it will be daylight soon - let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime: no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.

GOSPEL READING           From the Gospel according to Matthew (24:37-44)

Jesus said to his disciples, 'As it was in Noah's day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left. So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.

You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.'

Sunday Reflection 1st Sunday of Advent (01.12.19)

The Call of Advent

Countless worldwide generations have lived through eras of terrifying experiences. In relatively recent times, in addition to the First and Second World Wars, there are names that open up visions of human suffering at unpremeditated depths, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, The Holocaust, Chernobyl. Overwhelmed by the enormity of what has been the previously unexperienced as well as unexpected, humanity is commonly reduced to silence. It is at such times that collective memories are searched for early warnings and prophecies that may not have been sufficiently appreciated. This Sunday, December 1st, the Christian Church begins a New Liturgical Year of remembering the highlights of God's outreach to a self-exiled humanity. The Liturgical New Year always begins with a four-week introductory period named 'Advent'.

As the name implies, 'Advent' invites us, as Scripture expresses it, to be people of 'far-seeing eyes'. The title was first given to the Old Testament seer (prophet), Balaam son of Beor, (Book of Numbers 23 & 24). To be gifted with far-sightedness one needs first of all to learn to be still and, with humility, to place oneself in the presence of God. We can see a striking exemplar of this in the highly motivated Pharisee Saul on his way to persecute the Christians in Damascus. Thrown from his horse and deprived of sight, Saul is reduced to stillness and silence. Only then does Saul hears Jesus asking him "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts (9:5)

Is this Advent our time to wonder if, and for how long, Jesus has been calling our name? Perhaps the volume and intensity of distracting, even dis-edifying, noises with which we have allowed ourselves to be cocooned, have drowned out Jesus' call, especially if our far-sightedness is limited by a media dedicated to instant self-gratification. Before the incident on the road to Damascus, Saul, a practising Pharisee, truly believed that he was fulfilling God's will in persecuting this new sect called Christians. To what are we utterly committed and do our commitments align with God's will? Do we regularly consult the Lord as to the appropriateness of our commitments and their alignment with our Baptismal promises? It is an appropriate task for Advent.

When making an introspective review of our life, it is advisable to seek the accompaniment of a wise spiritual counsellor. For sure, we will be commended to seek a daily time of stillness. But the process of becoming still takes both time and practice. Think of how long the 'snow' in the glass continues to move after you have stopped shaking it! When we are still, a more thorough examination of the present, through the lens of history, might reveal what is truly before us. We may also see the signs we have been given and hear the calls directed towards us that we previously failed to recognise or even chose to ignore.

This Sunday's 1st Reading comes from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, who lived eight centuries before the birth of Christ. He is the most quoted OT prophet in the New Testament. His prophecies are not confined to history nor are they time-restricted. They were appropriate for when they were spoken and they remain, in essence, appropriate today. God's word, delivered by God or by his appointed prophet, is, by its very nature, living. Once made known, God's word continues without end. Every utterance that God has addressed to the human race is in some manner available now, though its promulgation may have centuries ago. In our successive human eras of time, God's word has a continuing relevance to the discovery of The Truth that may not be immediately evident especially to the self-distracted.

Part of this Sunday's excerpt from Isaiah (2:1-5) is frequently used when interceding for peace and disarmament (2:4) but a segment, removed from its context, could be said to be being usurped. It is being made use of, even laudably, outside of the author's original context. That overall context is God's call to his covenant-breaking people to turn back to him for forgiveness and the strength to be obedient symbolised by the heights of a restored Jerusalem, more a heart-held concept than a geographical location. The process of turning back to God involves the will to transform weapons of war into agricultural implements that people may feed, not kill, one another. The process was proclaimed by God, through Isaiah, in the 8th century BC. This Advent is an appropriate moment to ask ourselves if yet, in the 21st century, humanity is any nearer seriously engaging with God's declared process? The inevitable answer tells us that Isaiah's prophecy still awaits serious fulfilment by the human race.

Today's 2nd Reading from Paul's Letter to the Romans (13:11-14) dates from around AD 57/58. It is yet another call for Christians to "wake from sleep … for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed".
For committed Christians there is a God-tailored Advent programme awaiting us:
"Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh."
So here is Paul, himself a convert, building on the foundations of Isaiah's prophecy. But, have previous generations heard Paul and implemented his teaching? Is Paul being heard and collaborated with today, any more than was Isaiah in his day? Paul's programme, quoted above, would find little acceptance in European society today preparing for another 'binge' Christmas.

So, we come to the Gospel for today (Matt 27:37-44). Jesus, in teaching his disciples, is also building on the foundations of the prophets. He is pleading for his followers to have the far-sightedness that flows from him into us when we open our hearts to his word:
"As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."

It is an Advent call that, plagiarizing Jesus' words in another context (Matt 22:14), could read: 'many are invited but few will accept'. How will you respond?