READINGS FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT
The daily Advent readings at Mass for the first week of Advent are beautifully arranged and speak of a blessed promise.
The Old Testament readings, from the Prophet Isaiah, describe a bleak world as a fierce Assyrian army heads towards Jerusalem, laying waste towns and cities of Israel and Judea. Yet Isaiah sees something else. Instead of destroying armies, all nations are streaming to God’s mountain and “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” (Isaiah 2,1-5) Wars end and a frightened humanity knows peace.
The nations will come to God’s mountain, Jerusalem, where the temple stands, the prophet says. They will be fed a rich banquet (Wednesday), there the poor will triumph (Thursday), there the blind will see (Friday). The people will be safe on this rock, where children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together (Tuesday). The prophet’s imagery of promised peace challenges the way we see things..
In the gospels for the 1st week Jesus Christ fulfills the Isaian prophecies. The nations have their representation in the Roman centurion who humbly approaches Jesus in Capernaum. (Monday) Jesus praises the childlike; little as they are they will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Tuesday) He feeds a multitude on the mountain.(Wednesday) His kingdom is built on rock. (Thursday) He gives sight to the blind that they may find their way. (Friday)
Many of our Advent readings are from the gospel of Matthew, who portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol). His miracles affect all. Jesus is the new temple, the Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus gives us hope beyond human hope.
Mary and Joseph,
Help us see what you and the prophets saw. Amen.
To reach God’s holy mountain there’s a journey to make, Isaiah says, but guides will show the way. “Behold, I send my messenger ahead of you, to prepare your way.” Mark 1, 1. John the Baptist appears in the desert promising forgiveness to those washing in the waters of the Jordan River. We have been baptized in the waters of baptism.
The Old Testament readings this Advent week, mostly from Isaiah, describe a desert journey, but the desert will bloom and a highway will be there, the prophet promises. (Monday) God will speak tender, comforting words to his people on the way. (Tuesday) Those who hope in him will renew their strength, soaring on eagle’s wings. (Wednesday) Though we are as insignificant as a worm, God holds us in his hands and says:“Fear not; I am with you.” (Thursday) God is our teacher and shows us the way to go. (Friday) On the way, prophets like Elijah accompany us. (Saturday)
Jesus is our way, the gospel readings say. He healed and forgave the paralyzed man– symbol of a paralyzed humanity– who was lowered through the roof into the house in Capernaum. (Monday) Like a good shepherd he searches for and finds the stray sheep. (Tuesday) “Come to me all who are weary, ” he says. (Wednesday) He sends us prophets and guides like John the Baptist and Elijah.( Thursday) Though rejected like John the Baptist, Jesus still teaches. (Friday)
He will save us, even though unrecognized like John and Elijah. (Saturday)
List of Readings
Monday: Isaiah 30, 1-10 The desert will bloom and a highway will be there, a holy way.Luke 5,17-26 The paralyzed man, lowered through the roof, is healed and forgiven.
Tuesday: Isaiah 40,1-11 The desert is a way to the Lord. Comfort my people. Mattthew 18, 12-14 The shepherd searches for the stray sheep.
Wednesday: Isaiah 30,25-31 God is the strength of his people. Matthew 11,28-30 “Come to me all who are weary…”
Thursday: Isaiah 41,13-20 God says, “I will grasp you by the hand. Fear not.”Matthew 11,11-15 John the Baptist is sent like Elijah.
Friday: Isaiah 48-17-19 I teach you what’s for your good and lead you on the way to go. Matthew 11,1-19 John and Jesus rejected as teachers.
Saturday: Sirach 48,1-4; 9-11 Elijah, precursor of John. Matthew 17, 9-13 Elijah and John not recognized.
For this week’s homily, please play the video below:
Isaiah 2,1-5 All nations will come to this mountain
Matthew 8:5-11: The Roman centurion at Capernaum.
In 8th century Jerusalem Isaiah makes glowing promises about the holy mountain, Jerusalem– all people will come there. At the same time, Assyrian armies rumble into Palestine. “What are you talking about?” people say, “Can’t you see what’s at the door?”. But the prophet insists they will beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks and there will be no wars any more.
The prophet continues making outrageous promises. There will be a cloud by day and a fire by night over this holy mountain. The mountain’s moving, on an exodus of its own. Wonderful imagery for solid institutions, like churches and nations, that have been around for centuries. You’re still on the move, and God will guide you.
The Assyrians must have had the equivalent of the Roman centurions as the backbone of their armies. If you can get to them, you’ve got the army, military analysts would say. Powerful men, loyal soldiers. They could tell their troops: “Lay down your swords and spears,” and it would be done.
The Roman centurion in today’s gospel comes humbly before Jesus. “Lord, I am not worthy that you come under my roof, but say the word and my servant will be healed.” He comes with a faith not found in Israel.
The Messiah will touch the proud and the strong. The centurion is one of them.
For this week’s homily, please play the video file below:
He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye,
no beauty to draw us to him.
There is a great hero alive this very moment.
He’s running into a burning building to rescue a small child.
He’s chasing down a thief who nabbed a pocketbook from a helpless old lady.
He’s performing CPR on a middle-aged man in the midst of a heart attack.
He’s keeping diligent watch over the safety of a nation.
But there is no “burning building”, no “thief”, no “heart attack.” And the “nation” he watches over is his own home.
Oh, but there is crisis, there are certainly trials.
There are countless situations and scenarios that require heroic virtue.
For the child he rescues lives in a foreclosing home, the helpless old lady he aides is robbed by dementia, the middle-aged man he resuscitates is his own brother who desperately needs a sober ride home.
And “he”, our hero, is not just one man. He is several, and numerous, and he wears all kinds of different clothes.
And like that ultimate superhero, the one our childhood comic books ceaselessly proclaim, he spends most of his other waking hours in a job that appears rather mundane.
His “telephone booth”—where he quickly straps on his boots, belt, and cape—is often a tiny bathroom—into which he quietly enters and calmly closes the door, only to clasp his face and let out a silent cry. He sometimes even falls to his knees, begging God for strength. But he only has a minute.
He cant help but look in the mirror as he regains his composure and dries his face, preparing to head back into the arena. What he sees looks old and unfamiliar. That’s not the face of adolescent dreams.
And the door is opened and out walks our hero to save the scene.
Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God and afflicted…