1st Sunday in Advent – Cycle C
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
There is evidence from the mid-4th century on concerning some period of
preparation for the Christmas-Epiphany celebration. Length and emphasis
varied from place to place. Some regions kept a relatively long Advent
(from St. Martin’s feast, November 11); others, a rather brief
one. In Rome the season evolved to a 4-week preparation focusing on the
joyful celebration of the Lord’s Incarnation. In Gaul there was a
longer, heavily penitential season emphasizing the Lord’s
glorious advent at the end of time as Lord of history and judge of the
universe. Roman practice from the 12th century, codified by the Council
of Trent and enhanced by the greatly enriched lectionary of Vatican
Council II, combines these different emphases. The violet vestments
(with rose as an option on the 3rd Sunday) and the preaching of John
the Baptist bespeak the penitential aspect which invites the people to
reform. The Gloria is omitted, as during Lent, but for a somewhat
different reason, as the official commentary on the revised Calendar
notes: “So that on Christmas night the song of the angels may
ring out anew in all its freshness.” On the other hand, there is
a clear note of joyful expectation: The Alleluia is retained before the
Gospel. There has been no mandatory Advent fast since the 1917 Code of
Canon Law. The Ambrosian Rite in use throughout the area around Milan,
Italy still observes a longer (6-week) Advent while the Eastern Rites
in general observe a shorter “pre-feast” period before
Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward. We look
backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus of
Nazareth at Christmas. Before that birth people longed for the Messiah
who would restore Israel to her former power. We identify with that
ancient longing for restoration as we await Christ’s coming more
fully into our lives and also as we await His second coming.
With that longing for restoration in mind, we recognize in Advent a
time of preparation and anticipation. What we celebrate as having
happened in the past points to what we anticipate is coming again.
First, we recognize that Christ is born into our lives each day as we
open ourselves to His grace and love. These moments of discovering
birth in Christ are times when we can stand with the shepherds and hear
glad tidings proclaimed. Advent is a season that prepares us to
discover new birth happening over and over again for us in and thru
Christ. We celebrate those birth times at Christmas. Second, we look
forward in Advent to the culmination of Christ’s kingdom, when He
will return in glory to fulfill the promise of wholeness as all
creation responds to His healing presence. In our acclamation during
the Eucharistic Prayer, we identify with this longing when we say
“Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again,”
or similar words in the other acclamations. Through the Holy Spirit,
this new age has already begun, and this too we celebrate.
1st Reading - Jeremiah 33:14-16
On the “Day of the Lord” Israel will be restored after a
time of suffering. The writer uses beautiful language to remind us that
Jesus is a descendent of King David, who was a son of Jesse.
14 The days are coming, says the LORD,
This is most likely just a way of calling attention to a very solemn proclamation as opposed to pointing to a specific time.
when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
Verses 15 & 16 reuse the Prophet’s oracle on the future king
in Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jerusalem replaces Israel and is called by this
king’s new name. In 23:6 both Judah and Israel share in the
15 In those days, in that time, I will raise up for David a just shoot;
he shall do what is right and just in the land. 16 In those days Judah
shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall
call her: “The LORD our justice.”
“The LORD our justice” is a word-play on the current
king’s name (Zedekiah means “my justice is Yahweh”
vs. “Yahweh is our justice”). Isaiah had already given a
similar name to this future king – Emmanuel (God is with us)
2nd Reading - 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Keeping with the advent theme of anticipation, our second reading urges
us to perfect ourselves even more in preparation for our meeting Jesus
when our end time has come.
3:12 [M]ay the Lord
This prayer is addressed to Christ as the Risen Lord. The preceding
verse “Now may God himself, our Father, and our Lord Jesus direct
our way to you” is addressed to the Father and to the Lord Jesus
as if they act as one. This is the first inklings of the Trinity.
make you increase and abound
in love for one another and for all,
The whole community and beyond
just as we have for you,
The apostles serve as the example.
13 so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before
our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy
This petition focuses upon being prepared for the end times, the
parousia (presence) of Jesus as Lord. Our hearts are to be strengthened
because blamelessness and holiness are the qualities of fully realized
existence in the end times. Zechariah also wrote of the end times (see
“This is a proof of superabundant love, that he not only prays
for them by himself but even inserts his prayer in his epistles.
Paul’s prayers demonstrate a fervent soul unable to restrain his
love. The mention of his prayers also proves that Paul and
Silvanus’ failure to visit them was not voluntary nor the result
of indolence. It is as though Paul said: May God Himself shorten the
trials that constantly distract us, so that we may come directly to
you. ‘May the Lord make you to increase and abound.’”
Do you see the unrestrained madness of love that is shown by these
words? [Saint John Chrysostom (A. D. 398-404), Homilies on the First
Epistle to the Thessalonians, 4]
4:1 Finally, brothers [and sisters],
A transitional expression linking the prayers and the teaching
we earnestly ask and exhort you
Diplomatic language which implies Paul’s authority
in the Lord Jesus
The source of his authority
that, as you received from us
Paul recalls his earlier instruction (see 1 Thessalonians 2:13 for a
similar reference to this earlier teaching). Remember that Paul writes
to congregations which he has established and now oversees (the title
of bishop means “overseer”).
how you should conduct yourselves
He is addressing behavior.
to please God
Behavior with obedience to God as the aim. Saint Paul is a pastor – he commends and encourages.
– and as you are conducting yourselves – you do so even
more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord
Again he refers to the earlier instructions. What is to be done is
known, it’s just a matter of putting it into practice on a
“There is only one calamity for a Christian, this being
disobedience to God. All the other things, such as loss of property,
exile, peril of life, Paul does not even consider a grievance at all.
And that which all dread, departure from this life to the other world
– this is to him sweeter than life itself. For as when one has
climbed to the top of a cliff and gazes on the sea and those who are
sailing upon it, he sees some being washed by the waves, others running
upon hidden rocks, some hurrying in one direction, others being driven
in another, like prisoners, by the force of the gale. Many are actually
in the water, some of them using their hands only in the place of a
boat and a rudder, and many drifting along upon a single plank or some
fragment of the vessel, others floating dead. He witnesses a scene of
manifold and various disasters. Even so he who is engaged in the
service of Christ draws himself out of the turmoil and stormy billows
of life and takes his seat upon secure and lofty ground. For what
position can be loftier or more secure than that in which a man has
only one anxiety, ‘How he ought to please God’? Have you
seen the shipwrecks, Theodore, of those who sail upon this sea?”
[Saint John Chrysostom (A. D. 371-378), To The Fallen Theodore, 2,4]
Gospel - Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
The season of Advent is launched in Cycle C with the apocalyptic
writings of Saint Luke. These are times of expectant waiting. We must
not grow tired or complacent but be ready and alert; able to read the
signs of the times. Everything that happens, including suffering and
trauma, has significance in understanding God’s presence and
activity in creation.
As usual in apocalyptic writings, we deal here with the language of
poetic truth, not literal truth. Hence it is futile to tie symbols to
actual historical events in attempting to predict, for example, the
exact date of Christ’s second coming.
If this reading sounds familiar, it should, as we heard the parallel
text from Mark two weeks ago (33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B).
The time is just prior to Holy Thursday and Jesus is giving His final
teachings to His apostles before His passion begins.
[Jesus said to His disciples:] 25 “There will be signs in the
sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
The signs are not to be taken literally, but as an indication that all
creation will announce the second coming. The whole universe will
tremble at the Lord’s coming in power and glory (see Daniel
26 People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the
world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they
will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
28 But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your
In contrast with all those who will be cowering in fear.
because your redemption is at hand.
Because we are followers of Christ, we have confidence and hope and should not be fearful.
34 “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing
and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you
by surprise 35 like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who
lives on the face of the earth. 36 Be vigilant at all times and pray
Constant prayer is a persistent theme throughout Luke. Vigilance
consists in making a constant effort which keeps us close to God.
that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”
If we have lived as we should, the day we die will be a day of joy and
not of terror. In meeting Christ we will not be meeting a judge who
will find us guilty, but instead, He will embrace us and lead us into
the house of His Father to remain there forever. Do I have assurance of
my salvation? No, but I have absolute assurance that God will be true
to His word and His word tells me that if I live the life He wants me
to live, when my end time comes, I will be with Him in heaven. I also
know that if I do what I want rather than what He wants, and do not
reconcile myself with Him, I will not receive my inheritance.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org