Scripture Commentary for 1st Sunday of Advent, cycle A

Advent = 3 comings!  From St. Bernard (1090-1153):

We know that there are three comings of the Lord.  The third lies between the other two.  It is invisible, while the other two are visible.  In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men [and women]; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him.  In the final coming “all flesh will see the salvation of our God,” and “they will look on him whom they pierced.”  The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved.  In his first coming our Lord came in the flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.  Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last.  In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation. 

1st Reading – Isaiah 2: 1-5

This section is from ‘First Isaiah’ – that part of Isaiah that was written by an 8th century prophet when Assyria was attacking Israel (chapters 1-39).  This was a world in crisis. 1st Isaiah uses this powerful poetry to give the people of his time a vision of God’s plan that goes beyond the immediate disasters.  (Celebration, Dec. 2001)

Isaiah has an agenda against injustice, oppression and idolatry.  He implored the people to turn from their wicked ways and return to Yahweh.  Isaiah proclaimed a God who was in control of the whole world, a God who blessed and disciplined those who were in covenant with God.  In spite of Isaiah’s warnings, Israel’s kings did not heed his advice.  They refused to believe the promise that Yahweh would protect and defend their nation.  As a result, Isaiah turned his hopes to a future king who would obey Yahweh.  From this moment, the words of Isaiah inspired hopes of a messiah, a new king in Israel’s future who would better serve God and bring about a full measure of the divine blessing on the land.  The bottom line:  peace is possible only in God (Word & Worship, Birmingham, p. 49-50).

2nd Reading – Romans 13: 11-14

From Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu :

A Christian life is a life of tension, yet a tension that is filled with peace – a darkness that is filled with Christ’s light. Christians stand in the dark with our faces lit by the coming dawn. The early Christians actually lived thinking that Jesus was coming at any minute; we have a longer view of this coming. Yet, we, too, must live with a certainty of his coming that is so strong that his light casts his goodness on all we do.

From Share the Word, Dec. 2001 p. 16:

This passage changed St. Augustine’s life from waste to knowing the wonder of God’s power and love. Augustine as a young man knew orgies and drunkenness and promiscuity quite well. One day he heard a sing-song voice say to him: “Take, read.” His eyes fell upon this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans. Augustine let these words touch his heart and mind. These words helped to cut the cords of sin beginning a transformation that would eventually help him to become St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the Church’s greatest pastors and theologians.  He was able to cast off the ‘false self’ (flesh) that had led him to the ways of darkness and death, and  “to put on the Lord Jesus” being enlightened by this “armor of light.”

From Richard Rohr, CD’s: Great Themes of Paul:

When Paul talks of ‘the flesh’ he means all that leads to death; he does not mean sexual activities so much as activities that are destructive of human life and relationships.  Paul sets before us the essential conflict. In this essential conflict, something does have to die – something has to live. Flesh (translated from sarx, not soma) does not just mean body or sex. It is not the body that has to die. It is falsehood – sinful self-interest – the little self – the trapped self: insecure, attention-seeking, needy, fragile, wounded, broken, always looking outside of one’s self. It often ‘causes’ us to do things that are not in our own best interest. We end up treating ourselves and others as objects instead of persons valued and loved by God. The false self – the flesh – which is ruled by sin, has an overwhelming desire to make itself special. Paul would want us to believe (this is the faith that saves us) that in Christ, as a fully alive human being, we are already special and loved by God – so then we can get ‘off the stage’ and live the reality that is God’s love!

The Gospel – Matthew 24: 37-44

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship, Year A p.53-54:

Today’s gospel reminds us that Advent calls for a response of faith. Whoever can wake up and be truly present to one’s life, sensing right now how Advent mysteriously lets the inexperience-able God be experienced. So we do not know the hour or day. So what? What difference does it make? What does make a difference is the way we live our lives in hopeful anticipation and quiet presence now. How are we nurturing our relationship with the living God in our midst? Prayer can be our help. This watchfulness and prayer will also help us pay more attention to the needs of others who are suffering or despairing. For we are people of hope and good news – let us reflect the Light bringing the love of God to those around us.

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