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Contents: Volume 2 - 1st Sunday - ADVENT – A –
December 3, 2017


 

The 1st

Sunday

Advent

2017

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Barbara Cooper, OP

3. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

4. -- Brian Gleeson CP

5. --

6.. (Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Advent 1 B

Advent is here... just in time. We have another chance to pause, acknowledge that we may not be on the right path to welcome Jesus with joy, and change our ways. Then we can continue our lives in Him, watching for Him with different eyes.

Our lives are indeed a mixture of our doing what is right and what is not as well as ignoring what is right and what is not. We often zip through our days. Sometimes we can stop ourselves and "recalculate"... and sometimes we need the Church to help. Yea for Advent!

In our first reading, Isaiah captures a common remorseful moment when he cries out, "Why do you let us wander, O LORD, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?" He continues, "Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!" I think, however, that it is only if we allow ourselves to be the clay and the Lord the Potter can our thoughts move from wishful thinking to blessed assurance.

In the letter to the Corinthians we are told that we "are not lacking in any spiritual gift". Re-read and think about that... again. To me, that means that I (and you) have been given the gift of knowing what is wright and wrong, the gift of prayer, the gift of grace to do what is right, the gift of perseverance, the gift to share, the gift to recognize Jesus in others... yes, all gifts!

It takes time for that to sink in. My life and perhaps yours does not always reflect those gifts. I think we need to conform our most precious gift, our free will, to the words of Jesus for that to change.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples and us to "Watch!" It is time, perhaps well past time, to pay closer attention to what is happening in our lives and, most importantly, in our souls. May this Advent be the time for each of us to reclaim our spiritual gifts as tools to help us surrender ourselves fully to the Potter.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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First Sunday of Advent – B– December 3, 2017

"Be watchful! Be alert!"

There is an urgency to the words. They leave me feeling tense, nervous, ready for trouble. Like a sentry waiting for an enemy. Like I'm surrounded by impending dangers. Like there is a cougar in the bushes ready to pounce.

I'm reminded of the old movies about forts under siege. Defenders hoping their messenger made it through enemy lines to their main force, and that help is on the way.

I wonder if this is what Jesus intended.

The reading from Isaiah would seem to support this. People are feeling their insecurities and weaknesses, their poor choices and lack of wisdom and compassion. They feel abandoned by the Holy One, full of "yucky stuff" that smothers their spirit. Have you ever felt that way?

And so they call on God to save them.

"O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,

so that the mountains would quake at your presence—

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil—"

There are other places in Scripture however, that assure us that the Holy One is already right here, with us. We don't need to urge God down from above. There are no mountains in the way. And even our sins don't drive the Divine Mystery off to some inaccessible place.

Perhaps other words for "Be watchful! Be alert!" might be:

"Calm down, pay attention, be thankful!"

We are reminded often in the psalms and other parts of Scripture that the Holy One is not only on mountain tops, but also within and among us. We truly do hold a treasure in an "earthen vessel". We don't have to climb the highest mountain, but we do have to

Stop,

Take a deep breath,

Pay attention,

and Open Ourselves to the Holy Presence within.

Living in this moment is all we really have. What do you want to do with it?

Barbara Cooper, OP

Vancouver Island, BC Canada

bcoop60@yahoo.com

 

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First Sunday of Advent December 3, 2017

Isaiah 63:16-17& 19 & 64:2-7; Responsorial Psalm 80; 1st Corinthians 1:3-9; Gospel Acclamation Psalm 85:8; Mark 13:33-37

This Sunday is the Church’s New Year’s Day. Happy New Year! The Gospel this year is taken from the gospel of Mark. He is also known as John Mark in Paul’s letters and is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Mark’s gospel is the first gospel written and was written the citizens of Rome. It is the shortest of the gospels, written between 64 and 70 of the Christian Era. Mark is a disciple of St. Peter and uses Peter as the source of his writing.

Every New Year we look back on the year that was to discover and reflect on its high points and low points. We grieve over what went wrong, what we did that harmed others, how our choices harmed ourselves and our families. This Church New Year we should reflect on our spiritual growth or lack of growth the past twelve months. But we should be cautious because anyone who looks over his shoulder too long will find themselves in the ditch. When we turn from the past to look forward for a better year we typically make plans to make it a better time in our life. A few resolutions can set us on a path toward a deeper and closer following of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Here are three suggestions that focus on our time together as a learning and worshiping gathering of faithful followers of the Christ.

FIRST: Before we come to the place of assembly we should read and think about the three readings and the Responsorial Psalm. A source of these readings is the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops website. By preparing ourselves to listen to the proclamation of the Word our minds and our hearts are more open to the creative Word of God. Such listening changes us, as God’s Word is creative. We understand this from knowing the creation stories in the book of Genesis. "God said" and what he said came into existence. Preparing to listen to the proclamations of the Word also opens our ears to the words of the Homily. We should pray before Mass that the homilist has done his preparation prayerfully and with study of the source and history of the readings.

SECOND: Before we to church to join with the other faithful of our community in the celebration of the Liturgy of Word and of Communion Sacrifice, we should have thought about the week past and choose from the events of that week what we would like to offer to God and the Community Assembled. What we offer, whether it is money which symbolizes our week’s work or if it is a gift from our minds and especially from our hearts of the experiences we enjoyed or endured the past week. We must come to understand offertory as a procession carrying gifts from our life-experiences to the Lord. It certainly includes the fruits of our work and even more importantly must include our joys, our sorrows, our fears, and our relationships. This is critically important to our participation in the great Communion Sacrifice that is the second half of Mass. Coming to our assembly without a gift renders us like the man in the parable who came to the wedding feast without a wedding garment. If we think of offertory as just a time of getting ready the altar we’ve disrespected our contribution to what is the material consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit into the Body and Blood of the Lord. The offertory is a procession to the altar where we place our gifts. Parents who teach their children about this will find their children interested and attentive. They have a part to play. The Mass, after all, is the Work of the People. The ordained priest is the presider over the worshiping assembly, an assembly that is a nation of priests in their own right. Failure to recognize the importance of offertory minimizes meaningful participation and renders the ritual ineffectual and lacking in meaning.

Perhaps there is a lesson to learn from the ritual itself. As we pass from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of Sacrifice we recite the Creed. It is the transition point from Word to Sacrifice. For a time after the liturgical reforms of Vatican II we said started the creed with the words "We believe in one God." In the more recent translation, the Roman Missal the beginning of the Creed returned to "I believe". Not only is it a more accurate translation of the Latin "Credo" but it is an indication that we understand our response to the Word is a personal response. We are invited to join in the celebration of the Communion Sacrifice because of our belief and the faith that resides in our hearts. We pray the Prayer of the Faithful after the Creed by transiting from the "I" of the Creed to the plural "our" in our response, "Hear our prayer." The Roman Missal calls the Prayer of the Faith the Universal Prayer meaning it is our prayer for all of creation and all the people in creation, living, dead, and yet to be born. "Universal" is the very meaning of the word "Catholic." Our prayer is for all creation, for all humankind.

THIRD: We are led in prayer by the presider who invokes the Holy Spirit to transform what we offered at offertory into the Body and the Blood of the Christ. If we have offered nothing during the offertory then our experience, our life is not contained in the material consecrated. We participate by our presence in the assembly, but in a sense as an observer. It is when we offer the mundane, the ordinary, the struggles, the joys, the achievements, and the failures that our individual lives take on relevance and meaning. When our work, our experiences are on the altar because we brought them there in our offertory, then our lives are important and valuable. Our lives are collected with all others in our gathered assembly and with everyone in every assembly throughout the world. Those simple, ordinary, painful, joyful, and human gifts are consecrated into the Body and Blood of the Lord. It is the sacrifice we offer to God in praise and THANKSGIVING.

This thanksgiving is why we call this half of the Mass the Eucharist. That word, Eucharist, comes from the Greek and means to give thanks. The most awesome thing happens then. We share in the Body and the Blood of Christ in Communion: this Body and Blood of the Body of Christ becomes our nourishment, our healing medicine, our source of energy. Our reception makes us one with the Lord ------ and with each other. The term communion means to be in union with. When we receive the Eucharist we receive the gifts of the assembly which were consecrated by the action of the Holy Spirit and we become one in the Body and the Blood of the Christ. If we fail to become one, we remain alone; we remain individuals who must struggle alone through this life, isolated from others, alienated from our very serves. We are encouraged to remain standing after we return to our place and remain standing as a sign of our unity with each other. Our standing together reminds us we are one body in the Lord. If we were to realize our oneness in the One Body of the Lord, it would be impossible for us to ignore others; it would be impossible for us to cut off others in the parking lot; it would be impossible for us to hate or do harm to family, to our community, to co-workers in our work place, and to any and all people in the world. What a wonderful change this would be in this New Year of Mark’s gospel.

The first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures this Sunday is best understood if we start our reading from the beginning of Isaiah chapter 63. In this chapter of Isaiah the Jews have been released from captivity in Babylon. In groups of hundreds the Jews return to their once magnificent city, crowned by the Temple. The utter destruction they saw was a shock. The returnees knew the city not from personal experience but from the stories of its grandeur told by parents and grandparents. What they saw as the city came into view was destroyed walls, streets strewn with building materials, and a single standing foundation wall of the temple. The people squatting in this destroyed city were thieves and violent foreigners whose own nation rejected them. Isaiah prays the prayer of this first reading. He begs God to intervene again as he did at Mount Sinai for the people released from slavery in Egypt. Isaiah identifies God as Father, three times in this portion. God is the Father of the broken and bruised nation not because he created them but because he redeemed them from slavery. Isaiah is near to tears at his frustration and near to despair about the future of the nation. Yet, Isaiah reminds God that God has chosen this people.

Our parents and grandparents suffering through the Second World War must have felt the same despair as they went off to war or lost sons and daughters to the terrible conflict. Whole ethnic groups were condemned to extermination. Whole territories were ethnically cleansing. There was no regard for the dignity and worth of individual persons. Why had our predecessors experienced such a terrible catastrophe? Isaiah would have told them what he told the Jews. "Would that you – our Father – might meet us going right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry, and we are sinful; all of us have become like unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt." Yet even in the despair of Isaiah, he has the courage to quietly and gently whisper, "Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands." God is still, even in desperate times, the God of History.

We have completed only seventeen years into the twenty first century. Historians insist the century behind us is the most violent death dealing century in all of written history. Is there not a sense of despair in our future? Have we not become more polarized and hateful in dealing with persons not like us in race, in language, in national origin, in gender, in social status? Would it not be best to disengage from social and economic matters and focus on survival? Should we not arm ourselves against all others, build walls to keep others out? Why do we refuse to recognize our faults, our errors, and our sins? Why do we accept obvious lies as truth? Are the signs of the times a forewarning of total destruction and all-out war including the use of nuclear and chemical weapons? How can we overcome such despair, change our desperate condition? Let us pray with Isaiah; "Oh Lord, you are our father. We are the clay and you the potter: we are the work of your hands. Shape us into vessels of care and growth. Purify our spirits so we become fit and useful works in your creative hands."

The human heart cannot long endure despair. We must have Hope to survive. Despots and tyrants know this and actively work to bend our moral judgement toward a future of false hope. Tyrants rule by fear and gain their power by stoking the fires of fear. What a scandal that the lord of lies uses God to justify hatred and division.

The teaching of Jesus this Sunday helps us amend our thinking and the movements of our hearts. Jesus tells us to be aware, to stay awake. He does not tell us to be fearful. He tells us to take charge of the work of our lives; we are the servants of the Master who has gone on a journey. Each servant is to do his own work, to continue to be attentive to their chosen role. He admonishes the gatekeeper to be on watch for the enemy, to give alarm of approaching danger and destruction. Who is this gatekeeper who watches out for the enemy and for the return of the Lord? The gatekeepers are the prophets of our time, both secular and religious who warn us against the enemies who would steal our hearts and minds and bend our lives to serve those enemies. The gatekeepers of religious truth are those who understand and preach the hope of the Lord who is Father. These religious gatekeepers are the prophets who study the signs of our times and prepare the people to see them for what they are. God is the God of history.

The return of the Master of the household is not only at the end of the world but even now the Master returns home. It is not only on the last day that our Master comes to us. In every day the Lord makes himself available to us. We meet the Christ in very ordinary ways. We find him living with us in our families. We find him walking with us in our communities. We shoulder our work with Jesus as a help in our heavy lifting. Just because Jesus is with us in the ordinary, everyday moments of our life we often overlook his presence. It is in our Communion Sacrifice that we become One with Him in his Body.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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WAITING AND HOPING: 1ST SUNDAY ADVENT B

A woman stands at the end of a pier. Her eyes scan the far horizon. She is waiting and longing for her husband’s ship to reach port. A father climbs to a lookout on the top of a hill. He is hoping and longing to see his younger son come home to his family. A little girl puts out a glass of Coca Cola for Father Christmas, hoping that that he will leave her a doll. A young married couple is waiting and longing for the birth of their first child. An old man, sitting alone in a nursing home, has been waiting for three years for his only daughter to visit him. All these people are waiting and hoping for their dreams to come true. But they are powerless to make them come true. All they can do is to wait and to keep on waiting.

Waiting, in fact, is a big part of our lives. ‘I can’t wait to see you,’ we say. Or someone says to us, ‘I will wait for you,’ or ‘wait over there, please’, or more sharply, ‘you wait your turn’.

Hoping too is a big part of life. Waiting and hoping are closely related. If we are waiting, we are also hoping that what we are waiting for will really happen. ‘I hope Mum gets well soon,’ we say. ‘I hope I passed that exam.’ ‘I hope it’s nothing serious.’ ‘I hope you have a nice time.’ ‘I hope the wars in Iraq and Syria will end soon.’ ‘I hope to see you soon.’ If we are hoping, we know too that if we don’t or won’t wait, our hopes may be dashed.

Today, the First Sunday of Advent, we begin New Year’s Day in the Church. During the four weeks of Advent we notice that our church community puts strong emphasis on waiting and hoping, waiting and hoping for the coming of God into our lives, waiting and hoping for the presence and help of God within all the pain and darkness of life.

Once when Mother Teresa was visiting the USA she was asked which virtue Americans need the most. She was expected to say ‘charity’, but she answered that what they need most of all is hope. When quizzed about her answer, she said that too many people have lost hope. The same may be said more or less, surely, about ourselves.

But perhaps we haven’t so much lost hope as misplaced it. Perhaps we have placed our hope on what cannot fulfil our deepest longings and needs. We have been told that if we just work hard, postpone some immediate gratifications, and wait patiently, then our dream will surely come true. The dream that promises us a beautiful house, a late model car, a wonderful paying job, a perfect partner in life and a perfect family! But perhaps far from being the great dream, this may become the big illusion.

Dreams motivate us to keep on hoping, but illusions are really false hopes that can end only in disappointment and frustration. To be spared living with illusions, our Advent readings today tell us to be watchful as well as waiting. But before we can be watchful, our readings also tell us, we must be wide awake. But if we find ourselves racing around frantically trying to get the most out of every minute, buying every labour-saving device on the market, talking nearly non-stop on our mobile phones, shopping for Christmas till we just about drop, we might think that we are wide awake. But the Word of God today suggests that to be so busy that we ignore the presence of God in our lives and of the plans of God for us, we are actually asleep. Then, maybe, we are just living with illusions.

So the prophet Isaiah reminds us of our deep-down need to stop living life as though we are in complete control, and to let God take charge of our lives. By letting God mould us and shape us! He is speaking for you and for me in all our busyness when he says to God: ‘Lord, you are our Father; we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand.’

What a wonderful prayer to keep saying to God in Advent! What a wonderful thought to keep us peaceful and focussed on the true meaning of Advent – waiting and hoping for the coming of Christ into our lives! As at Bethlehem, at the end of time, and in the here and now! Let’s hear and say it once again: ‘Lord, you are our Father; we the clay, you the potter, we are all the work of your hand.’

The message of our readings is very clear and very relevant: - ‘stay awake’, and ‘watch out’. Why? Lest the spirit of Advent and Christmas, the spirit of goodwill to all, the spirit of joy, peace and calmness, the spirit of generosity and love, the very spirit of prayer, be snuffed out of our hearts and lives by the false spirits of consumerism and materialism.

Those two demons are never far away. Always waiting to pounce on our consciousness and invade our choices. So everything I’ve been stressing is summed up in that marvellous ending to that prayer we pray in every Eucharist – our prayer for deliverance from evil of every kind: ‘... we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ’. Let’s pray it with special fervour today!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net. Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John
 


 

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