this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The
web that is woven over all nations;
First Week of Advent: December 1-7, 2019
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First Week of Advent
The First Sunday of Advent begins a new liturgical year and the beginning of a season filled with the riches of our scripture readings. For the next few weeks, as we focus on Isaiah, we read of the promise of peace offered to the people of God: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Matthew's gospel is the story of Noah and a caution from Jesus to prepare “for an hour you do not expect.”
Tuesday Memorial of the great Jesuit missionary, Saint Francis Xavier, S.J. In the US, Saturday is the Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, while the rest of the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the US, it will be celebrated on the following Monday, December 9.
Unlike most of the liturgical year, the focus during the first part of Advent is on the first readings, this week from the Prophet Isaiah. These readings are about promises. Isaiah is consoling, building up and preparing his people to have hope. “One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” He promises “luster and glory” for the people: “and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor for the survivors of Israel.” Even though the family lines of King David and his father, Jesse, are almost wiped out, Isaiah proclaims hope: “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The prophet tells of feasting and security: “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines” and “A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.” Even Jesus' own statement about his mission is seen in the powerful images Isaiah uses to give us courage and hope: “On that day the deaf shall hear ... the eyes of the blind shall see ... the lowly will ever find joy in the LORD ... ” “On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people.”
The gospels for these weeks are chosen from several gospels. They are meant to match the first readings and to show the promises are fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus brings healing. He raises up the childlike. And Jesus calls and sends the twelve apostles to continue his ministry.
In the Second Sunday of Advent we hear Isaiah write of peace and prosperity that will come when the “root of Jesse” blossoms. “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.” Matthew's Gospel brings us the famous Advent reading of John the Baptist serving as a voice of one crying out in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
Daily Prayer This Week
It seems like a contradiction, but it becomes easy to stay focused during Advent. There are many distractions at this time of the year, we seem to get very busy, and at times have to go to a number of parties and social events. But, the heart of this season is all about expectant hope. So, we begin our Advent journey by giving ourselves some time to reflect this week on how much God promises us.
Each morning, while we are first coming to consciousness, we can focus for just a few moments, to name a desire, to name an emptiness or feeling of anxiety or worry. It is into places just such as these that our Lord came to be with us. So, this week, we can begin to invite our Lord to be Incarnate in our lives, in the places we need him the most.
Our goal this week is to let ourselves feel like those to whom the promises of our God are made. We want to get in touch with ourselves, especially those parts of ourselves that are in need of a Savior. We do this by keeping our focus on the places that feel like a desert, the places that feel like we've been through a war, the places that feel like a lifeless stump. When we have a hard time seeing, we ask for the grace to be able to believe the promise that we shall see. When we seem deaf, we place our trust in the One who assures us that we will hear. And when we feel beaten down and awfully lowly, we turn to the One who promises that we will “find joy in the Lord.” And, who among us doesn't have days on which we are aware of various kinds of wounds? On the day of promise, “the Lord binds up the wounds of his people.”
As we let these deep realities of our daily, busy lives come into focus and interact with the readings, something wonderful happens. We become more and more aware of our need for God. Very naturally and quite spontaneously, a prayer comes forth from deep within us, which we can say in the smallest moments of our busiest days. “Come, Lord.” “Come and save me.” “Come and be with me in all of these messy, empty, dry and disordered places in my life.” “Come, Lord. I feel my longing for you grow. I feel my hope grow. And, as I place my hope in your promises, Advent begins to come alive in me.”
of this preparation can happen in the simplest way, before the first
Christmas decoration goes up. And, for each moment of each day that
we encounter a place that we desire, that we long for our Lord's coming,
we can express our thanksgiving. Each night we might pray:
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