First Sunday of Advent ~ 29 November 2020

Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7; Responsorial: Psalm 80; II: I Corinthians 1:3-9; Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

Happy New Year! Today we begin a new year in the Church. And after the many challenges and trials of the year past we begin this new year of our faith with hope and the call of God in our hearts. Of course only God knows what lies ahead. Surely there will be trials and problems but they will bring to us more opportunities of grace as we seek and prepare to draw ever closer to the coming King of Kings, Jesus our Lord.

Today is the dawn of a new day, a new year and a year closer to the return of our Savior and King in the fullness of His holy grace. It is indeed a time of dawning hope, in God.

To enter more fully into this holy time of joy let us share, in our hearts, the opening words of the Collect, the opening prayer for the Mass of this day: “Grant your faithful, we pray almighty God the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.”

As we pray and allow these holy words to seep into our perhaps dry and weary souls let us consider for a moment an image of hope.

The essence of Advent is that of relentless hope, a hope that causes us to watch, to wait, to seek to know Jesus who is coming.

Think of Mary, our Blessed Mother, upon the fullness of her assumption as she saw her Son waiting to welcome His mother home.

Think of St. John of the Cross as he finished his earthly journey and entered into his heavenly home. Consider him bringing to Jesus the love from his heart and life with the righteous deeds graced through him by God after a long dark night of the soul.

Remember all those who sought, perhaps like us imperfectly, to love and serve God and neighbor with hearts, maybe strong and holy or broken but seeking the hope of their merciful home in the heart of God.

Our Bible readings this holy day affirm this longing of God for us to be seeking and ready for His coming, to take us home, with an hope the world and enemy of our souls cannot destroy.

The prophet Isaiah, in our first reading, speaks of the struggles and times of wandering many (most) souls encounter in their journey this side of eternity. The Holy Spirit, speaking through Isaiah, in loving, brutal honesty speaks of our lives, our SELF-righteousness, as filthy rags before God. The sad recognition is also made of our failure to seek, to hold fast to God’s embrace. Yet through these tragic realities of sin there is HOPE! The Holy Spirit reminds us that we are still clay in the hands of the Potter…we are ALL the work of His hands. And this work of God promise graces and blessings, with His coming that eye has never seen or ear never heard. Words that St. Paul would, centuries later, share with the faithful (I Corinthians 2:9).

And it is in our second reading St. Paul also assures us that God’s peace and grace are promised to those who allow their souls to hear God’s call to that joyful relationship, that fellowship with His Son, Jesus the Christ.

But it is in the Gospel an essential key to an Holy Spirit filled and blessed Advent is found. “Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert!” We begin a new year this Sunday. But we still have many challenges to face. The trials of the Covid 19 pandemic will be with us for some time to come. This includes the restriction, for many, of the sacramental facets of our treasured faith. God allows these restrictions not to deny but to help us grow in holy love and solidarity with those unable to worship in full sacramental freedom and to share a very holy love that calls us to seek the health and welfare of our neighbor. God would also use this time to enlarge our hearts to His Presence and promises that are never constrained by circumstance or human conditions. These temporal restraints also lead us to seek and prepare and to receive the very Real Presence in the Eucharist of our Savior. Also the political struggles of our nation are challenges that faith and mercy, compassion and love will be needed to resolve. The struggles of economic uncertainty will be with us as well. But these struggles, as well those of the inner heart or family are but opportunities to seek and discover Jesus in ways we may have never imagined. The trials, the sorrows, the worries they may be very real. For awhile. But even more real, for all eternity is our King who is coming. And each struggle, each chapter of our lives is meant to be an opportunity to seek, watch and run into His arms.

Watch, Be alert, Jesus comes!