22 November 2012

'Watch at all times.' Sunday Reflections. First Sunday of Advent Year C

Ships in Distress in a Raging Storm, Ludolf Backhuysen, c.1690

We begin Year C, which highlights St Luke's Gospel.

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 21:25-28, 34-36 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Jesus said to his disciples, "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on 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. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. 

"But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare; for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth. But watch at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of man."

Entrance Antiphon  Cf Psalm 24[25]:1-3

Latin Gregorian chant

Ad te Domine levavi animam meam, 
Deus meus in te confido, non erubescam. 
necque irrideant me inimici mei. 
etenim universi qui te exspectant, non confundentur.

In you, I lift up my soul, O my God.
In you, I have trusted, let me not be put to shame.
Now let my enemies exult over me,
and let none who hope in you be put to shame.

I am preparing this early before going on retreat from 24 November till 1 December. Here is Pope Benedict's Angelus Talk on the First Sunday of Advent, 29 November 2009.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Sunday, by the grace of God, a new Liturgical Year opens, of course, with Advent, a Season of preparation for the birth of the Lord. The Second Vatican Council, in the Constitution on the Liturgy, affirms that the Church "in the course of the year... unfolds the whole mystery of Christ from the Incarnation and Nativity to the Ascension, to Pentecost and the expectation of the blessed hope of the Coming of the Lord". In this way, "recalling the mysteries of the redemption, she opens up to the faithful the riches of her Lord's powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time; the faithful lay hold of them and are filled with saving grace" (Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 102). The Council insists on the fact that the centre of the Liturgy is Christ, around whom the Blessed Virgin Mary, closest to him, and then the martyrs and the other saints who "sing God's perfect praise in Heaven and intercede for us" (ibid., n. 104) revolve like the planets around the sun.

This is the reality of the Liturgical Year seen, so to speak, "from God's perspective". And from the perspective, let us say, of humankind, of history and of society what importance can it have? The answer is suggested to us precisely by the journey through Advent on which we are setting out today. The contemporary world above all needs hope; the developing peoples need it, but so do those that are economically advanced. We are becoming increasingly aware that we are all on one boat and together must save each other. Seeing so much false security collapse, we realize that what we need most is a trustworthy hope. This is found in Christ alone. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, he "is the same yesterday and today and for ever (Heb 13: 8). The Lord Jesus came in the past, comes in the present and will come in the future. He embraces all the dimensions of time, because he died and rose; he is "the Living One". While he shares our human precariousness, he remains forever and offers us the stability of God himself. He is "flesh" like us and "rock" like God. Whoever yearns for freedom, justice, and peace may rise again and raise his head, for in Christ liberation is drawing near (cf. Lk 21: 28) as we read in today's Gospel. We can therefore say that Jesus Christ is not only relevant to Christians, or only to believers, but to all men and women, for Christ, who is the centre of faith, is also the foundation of hope. And every human being is constantly in need of hope.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Virgin Mary fully embodies a humanity that lives in hope based on faith in the living God. She is the Virgin of Advent: she is firmly established in the present, in the "today" of salvation. In her heart she gathers up all past promises, and encompasses the future. Let us learn from her in order to truly enter this Season of grace and to accept, with joy and responsibility, the coming of God in our personal and social lives. 

After the Angelus the Pope added these words for World AIDS Day, which this year is 1 December.

The first of December is World AIDS Day. My thoughts and prayers go to every person afflicted by this illness, especially the children, the poorest and those who are rejected. The Church never ceases to do her utmost to combat AIDS, through her institutions and personnel dedicated to this mission. I urge everyone to make his/her own contribution, with prayer and practical attention, to ensure that all who are affected by the HIV virus may experience the presence of the Lord who gives comfort and hope. Lastly, by redoubling and coordinating our efforts I hope it will be possible to eradicate this disease.


Pope Benedict celebrating First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent on the evening of Saturday 29 November 2009, the first liturgical celebration of the new liturgical year.

étenim univérsi qui te exspéctant non confundéntur.

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