The Great Flood, Bonaventura Peeters the Elder
Readings (New American Bible)
Gospel Matthew 24: 37-44
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Advent is primarily a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, as Fr Thomas Rosica points out in his reflection below. It is also a time when we prepare to celebrate the Birth of Our Savior.
Advent is the least understood of the Church’s liturgical season and perhaps the one most distorted by Christians, though not usually deliberately so. Filipinos often boast that the Christmas season here is ‘the longest in the world’, beginning in September and ending on the Feast of Candlemas, 2 February. The irony is that here in the Philippines we hardly observe the Christmas season at all. It begins on the evening of Christmas Eve and ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord which will fall on 8 January in 2011.
I refuse to allow any Christmas decorations go up in my house/office or lights outside until Advent begins. But many have these up before Advent begins and down before Christmas ends. When I was a child we put up our Christmas decorations on Christmas Eve and took them down after the Epiphany. I know that Ireland has a different culture and we have the 'commercial Christmas' there too. But we should be guided by the Church's ancient tradition not by commerce as we prepare to celebrate the Birthday of Jesus.
But I have noticed over the last ten years that people are spending less and less coming up to Christmas, because they can’t afford to. I’ve noticed that the offerings during the Misas de Gallo (novena of pre-dawn Masses in honour of the Blessed Virgin, 16-24 December) are fewer each year, at least where I celebrate them. This again reflects that people are struggling.
Part of the universal distortion of Advent is the proliferation of ‘Christmas’ parties before Christmas even begins. We don’t hold baptismal parties before a child is baptized nor do we hold a wedding banquet until after the wedding.
I’ve nothing against parties before Christmas, as Advent is a quietly joyful season. But those held in parishes, in Catholic schools or by Catholic groups, should be called ‘Advent parties’ or, at the least, ‘Pre-Christmas parties’. Otherwise we are handing on something that is distorted and undermining the celebration of the great feast of Christmas and undermining the faith of people.
The emphasis should be on preparation, for the Second Coming, whenever it may be, and for a joyful celebration of the Birthday of Jesus. He desires to be born again in our hearts. In the words of St Paul today, we are called to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’. Isaiah has the magnificent vision of the people beating ‘their swords into plowshares’. This speaks to a world in which many starve because their land is ravished by warfare and those who don’t die violently often die indirectly from the famine caused by the sword.
How much violence there is in the Philippines on a daily basis! Murders are often unreported or noted in inside pages. The families of the 59 killed - the usual figure given is 57 but two were reported to be pregnant – may not see justice done for years, if ever.
The gospel today closes with these words: for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. What would we say to Jesus if he walked into our schools, into our offices, into our courts, into our churches, today?
The United Nations garden contains several sculptures and statues that have been donated by different countries. This one is called "Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares" and was a gift from the then Soviet Union presented in 1959. Made by Evgeniy Vuchetich, the bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing man's desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all mankind. (I'm aware of a certain irony in this sculpture having been donated by the then Soviet Union. But the image is from the Word of God).
Advent: A Time to Wake From Our Hypnotic Sleep
Biblical Reflection for 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A
By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
TORONTO, NOV. 23, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The Advent season in its liturgical observance is devoted to the coming of God at the end of history when Jesus shall reign as king.
The time is chiefly a celebration of "the coming of God" in ultimate triumph. Our three Scripture readings for the first Sunday of Advent (Year A) challenge us to adopt a timetable in which the seemingly distant parousia (final coming) impinges on the present moment . . .
Father Rosica’s reflection includes the following:
The pregnant season
On Saturday evening, Nov. 27, eve of Advent this year, Benedict XVI will celebrate in St. Peter's Basilica a "Vigil for All Nascent Human Life" coinciding with first vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. The Holy Father has said: "The period in which we prepare for Christmas is an appropriate time to invoke divine protection on every human being called into existence, and to thank God for the gift of life we received from our parents."
"Nascent" is a word not frequently used in our daily vocabulary. While it clearly refers to unborn human life, its other meanings include "promising," "growing," and "hopeful." As we enter into Advent, our thoughts naturally focus on the hope and expectation of the coming of Christ. Christ came to us first as an unborn child, tiny, vulnerable and in need of protection and care of his mother.
By calling for this worldwide prayer vigil, Benedict XVI invites us to focus both on the hope and promise of new life in Christ that we celebrate at Christmas but also to acknowledge the sad fact that worldwide there are an estimated 50 million abortions performed each year. Lives are simply thrown away. Many people in our time have truly become "hypnotized" to this reality. We have justified our reasons and means for destroying life in the womb because it disturbs and upsets us, forcing us to change our way of living. What are the hypnotic conditions against human life that we experience without our consciousness of them?
More than any other time of year, Advent is a pregnant season. We need a renewal of faith and hope about the meaning of life as the reflection of God. The timing of this prayer service for "nascent life" at the beginning of the Advent season is a happy coincidence that reminds us of the great gift from God that each and every human life represents.
You may read the full text of Fr Rosica's reflection here.