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1st Sunday of Advent

FIRST READING  Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7

You, Lord, are our Father, our redeemer you are named forever.  Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?  Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.  Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you, while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for, such as they had not heard of from of old.  No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.  Would that you might meet us doing 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, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter:  we are all the work of your hands.

SECOND READING        1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

GOSPEL       Mark 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man traveling abroad.  He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.  Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to all: “Watch!”

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

The Prophet Isaiah tells us in the first reading today:  “No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you doing such deeds for those who wait for him.  Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”

This is the theme of Advent and we can deepen our awareness of God’s love for us by living this awareness of God throughout Advent this year.  “Watch.”  We want God to find us always doing what is right, always mindful of Him in our ways.  We can only do that if we take time to be with Him each day.

The Prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading that there is no God like our God.  Sometimes we think that there are no competing gods today.  Instead, we can open our eyes and see so many realities competing to be god, so many people who play at being god, and so many values that seem godlike to the present age.

It is important that we realize that only faithfulness to the One, True God will bring us peace and a wonderful human life.  Faith never promises to make us wealthy or powerful—it actually promises the opposite.  What faith does promise is that our life will be filled with joy in knowing the Lord and living His divine life.

The second reading on this First Sunday of Advent is from the First Letter to the Corinthians.  In this letter we can focus on these words:  “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  God is faithful.  We are not faithful, but God remains faithful.  God calls us to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ.  We are called to share the life of Jesus Christ.  Again we can reflect that living the life of Jesus Christ means to embrace poverty, to accept suffering, to serve all others and especially those who reject us.  Sharing in this life brings incredible joy, even when it does not bring immediate happiness—which is what our world wants us to seek.

The Gospel from Saint Mark reminds us once again:  keep alert and keep watching for the Lord!  It is so easy today to accept the values of the world.  At times those values seem even more compassionate than Gospel values.  We have to recognize that doing right is not the same as feeling good about ourselves or about others.  One of the great gods of our time is the demand that we always feel good, that we seek momentary happiness, above the values of the Gospel and the Scriptures.

May this Advent deepen our faith and help us understand and live what the Scriptures reveal to us.  May we find ourselves drawn deeper into the heart of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.  It is not easy to stand against the false gods of our time, but we have receive the invitation to walk with the Lord Jesus.  Let us walk into His light.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip