A Reflection on the Readings for the first Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2022
First Reading: Is 2:1-5
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Rom 13:11-14
Gospel: Mt 24:37-44
This Sunday, we begin the Extraordinary Liturgical Season of Advent and the beginning of a year of Cycle A Sunday readings. This Sunday is also the beginning of a new liturgical year with the first of four Sundays of Advent. In the Extraordinary Liturgical Seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter, our readings each day reflect a common theme as opposed to the Liturgical Season of Ordinary Time, wherein the theme can change from day to day. In the case of Advent, that theme is the anticipation of Christ coming into the world. But there is actually a two-fold anticipation: First, we are remembering and anticipating the celebration of Christmas when Christ first came into the world, but secondly, we are anticipating His return at the end of time.
Our first reading from Isiah would be dated to the late 8th century B.C., and that which Isiah is anticipating is the Lord’s house, the temple in Jerusalem on the temple mount, being established as what the Jews would have considered “the center of the world.” All nations will gravitate to Jerusalem and the temple so that they may be instructed in God’s ways and may learn to walk in His paths. The world will be in peace, and the nations will never again raise the sword against one another.
One of the things I find most fascinating about the Old Testament is that what was written hundreds of years before the time of Christ can take on a new meaning in the Christian era. For example, Isiah’s references to the temple, the Lord’s house, the temple mount as the highest mountain, the center of the earth, that all people will come streaming toward can be understood as subtle references to the church that Christ will establish when he comes. The “New Jerusalem” coming down out of heaven that we read about in the Book of Revelation should also be seen as a reference to the church, established in heaven and through which God’s ways will become known on earth and instruction in the Word of the Lord will be given. Isiah is telling his contemporaries that in “days to come,” the Lord’s House (the church) will become the “center of the world” and that all nations will be called to that house of the Lord and will receive that instruction. And now, thousands of years after Isiah wrote, we have that “New Jerusalem,” established by Christ, wherein we not only receive instruction, we receive absolution of our sins.
Our Responsorial Psalm carries the same theme: “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” wherein, according to decree, judgment seats are set up for the commendation of the just and the condemnation of the unjust. It is in this “house of the Lord” that we give thanks to the Lord and we pray for the good of each other.
Our second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is, of course, from the New Testament when faithful Christians are already aware of the first coming of Christ, that historical event we call Christmas. St. Paul draws attention to the second of the two-fold anticipations of Advent – the return of Christ at the end of time. The night is advanced, and the day of Christ’s return is at hand, so be prepared. Live according to His teachings and conduct yourselves properly as in the daylight, making no provisions for the desires of the flesh. The message of our second reading is “Vigilance;” be prepared. This reading is probably especially appropriate for us in the modern world as we tend to busy ourselves with preparations for the Christmas season with gift-buying, decorating, planning meals, etc., and lose track of the fact that our real emphasis should be on vigilance in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming.
Jesus’ message in the gospel this week also emphasizes vigilance and anticipates His return, and He does so with three parables. At the time of the great flood, people were living their lives without regard to the sign they were receiving from Noah as he built the ark: Pay attention or disaster will fall upon you! Noah alone was found to be just; all others perished. Jesus warns us that, upon His return, the same will be true – the just will be saved, and all others will perish. One will accompany Christ into paradise; another will be left behind. The vigilant homeowner will not allow his house to be broken into.
Christianity has been anticipating Jesus’ return for over 2000 years, which leads one to wonder how many no longer believe in His return, so they conduct their lives as in darkness rather than as in daylight. But Jesus assures us that He will return, and he will come like a “thief in the night” when we least expect Him. Be a good Boy Scout – be prepared!
Author: Ric Cross