First Sunday of Advent
First reading: Is 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7
Responsoral Psalm: 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
Second reading: 1 Cor 1:3-9
Gospel: Mk 13:33-37
By Jem Sullivan
Each Advent, we are given a fresh chance to discover that the deepest longings of our heart are for God. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of this deep human desire for God. For this reason, he is considered the prophet of Advent who highlights the hopes of the people of Israel for a messiah. Our deep longing for God is at the heart of our Advent preparations.
The Israelites returned to their homeland after their exile. Almost immediately, they begin to fall away from God’s commands. The prophet laments his own sins and the sins of his people. He begs for God’s intervention. Then, he uses a striking metaphor to describe Yahweh’s relationship with Israel: the image of a potter and his clay.
A skilled potter shapes formless clay into beautiful and functional objects. In the same way, Israel is being shaped by God’s loving hand. Isaiah’s image begs the question: Are we willing to be molded by God just as a potter molds clay?
In the second reading, Paul writes to the Corinthians as they wait for the revelation of Christ. Beginning with words of blessing, Paul thanks God for the many blessings they have received. Then, Paul encourages them, and us, to use God-given gifts and talents well.
As they wait for the revelation of the Lord’s glory, and persevere to the end, Paul reminds them, and us, that God alone is our strength. Do we lean on God to face the challenges of daily life?
Jesus’ advice to the disciples in Mark’s Gospel is a perfect Advent theme. Be alert! Be watchful! He repeats the message three times, reminding us of its importance in the spiritual life.
One obstacle to the Christian life is indifference to God’s presence in our lives. Jesus warns against being asleep when the Lord of the house returns. During Advent, we are invited to hear God’s word with hearts and minds open and alert to God’s loving presence in our midst.
In this season of the incarnation, Jesus, the Son of God, comes into our midst bringing a peace and hope that this world cannot give. For most of us, this time quickly turns into the most hectic part of the year. We are distracted, overwhelmed and focused on fleeting, material things that satisfy only for a time.
God’s word invites us to fix our gaze on the eternal and greatest gift we can give and receive in this season of joy — the gift of God’s only Son, Jesus who reconciles us to friendship with God.
Advent becomes a spiritually fruitful season when we turn to God’s word, saying in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
“When the church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 524)
Sullivan is secretary for Catholic education of the Archdiocese of Washington.