1st Sunday of Advent C
DR. BRANT PITRE
Mass Readings Explained
You might be thinking… he’s probably not coming back this year, right? Well, he might not come back this Advent, but you might die this Advent. There are going to be people who die during this Advent season, who are going to encounter Christ, who are going to stand before the judgment seat of Christ in their particular judgment if not the final judgment. And no one of us Christians knows the day or hour of that encounter of our particular judgment. So it’s prudent, it’s wise for the church every year to call us to pray, to keep vigil, and to get ready to meet Jesus. That’s what we’re doing during the Advent season.
SOURCE: Mass Readings Explained by Dr. Brant Pitre.
Our Sunday Visitor
Key Points to the Readings
DENNNIS HAMM, SJ
Followers of Jesus will be supported by the Holy Spirit, the gospel will reach all nations, and there is a heap of housekeeping to be done in the time between.
JOHN FOLEY, SJ
Let yourself imagine what this planet might be like if no one paid attention except to their own wants.
DR. ELEANOR STUMP
At Christ’s coming again, we are to be blameless in holiness. And what is that?
RICHARD Niell Donavan
The Readings in Context
Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.
Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA
Your Liberation is Near at Hand!
Navarre Bible, et alia
SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese. Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible. In addition, Church History by Laux (TAN Books), Introduction to the Bible by Laux (TAN Books), A Guide to the Bible by Fuentes (Four Courts Press), and Sharing Our Biblical Story by Russell for background information. Also included are quotations from The Faith of the Early Fathers (3 volumes) by Jergens and Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (many volumes) edited by Odum.
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY
By Your Perseverance You Will Secure Your Lives
The theme of the readings for this Sunday comes from Luke 21:19, a verse that precedes our Gospel Reading when Jesus said: “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.” At this point in salvation history, we are between Christ’s two comings: His first Advent when God the Son came enfleshed to live what all that humanity experiences and to preach the Gospel of salvation, and also the promised Second Advent of His return. The angels revealed to the Apostles and disciples this future event at Jesus’s Ascension. They said, “
Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
We know the promise that death and evil will be destroyed when the King of kings arrives to claim His Church, but when? We pray and wait, but is God listening? The Advent readings address these questions. Waiting on the timing of the Lord requires patience and the perseverance of faith. We must accept God’s will in the “not yet” with the hope and trust in “the better that is to come.” As to why He is taking so long to return, St. Peter wrote:
But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar, and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out (2 Pt 3:8-10.
Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
Preview of the End of the World
AFRICA BIBLE COMMENTARY
AFRICA STUDY BIBLE
Pilate asked an important question: “What is truth?” It is a question that has been asked for centuries—and is still asked today. Truth was an important topic in the Gospel of John. Luke refers to truth twelve times; Mark fourteen times; Matthew thirty-two times; but John refers to truth sixty-nine times.
Like many religious leaders today, Pilate seemed to define truth as the popular idea that truth is whatever appeals to the majority. If people in a church prefer a certain style of preaching or singing without paying much attention to the content of those sermons or songs, they may unknowingly be drifting away from the truth. Pilate knew the truth that Jesus was innocent, but he would not accept it because it was not the popular idea. Pilate turned away from the truth and bowed down to what worked best for him.
- Truth is not negotiable for us. It is an essential part of our Christian faith. According to John:
- Truth enables us to truly worship God—“True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23).
- Truth sets us free— “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
- Truth helps make us holy—“Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17).
Many of us follow what is popular, even if it is not right. We do what works, even if it goes against God’s law. Too many people deceive and manipulate to make money. Too many teach wrong doctrines because that is what people want to hear. Too many pay bribes because it has become the acceptable “true practice” in our societies. Those who speak or practise the truth can be seen as the odd ones.
Do you follow God’s truth, or do you allow your own thoughts and ideas to define your “truth”? Are you willing to stand for the truth even if it goes against what might work best for you? Remember, if you know God’s truth and do not do it, you stand against God, and you will miss his blessings.
SOURCE: CONTENT taken from Africa Study Bible, NLT which brings together 350 contributors from over 50 countries, providing a unique African perspective. It’s an all-in-one course in biblical content, theology, history, and culture, with special attention to the African context. Copyright © 2017.
NEW COLLEGE BIBLE COMMENTARY
Exhortation to be Vigilant
LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE
Waiting Recovery of One’s Sanity
Glorious Appearance of Christ
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
25. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26. Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
BEDE. The events which were to follow the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles He explains in regular order, saying, There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars
AMBROSE. All which signs are more clearly described in Matthew, Then shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.
EUSEBIUS. For at that time when the end of this perishing life shall be accomplished, and, as the Apostle says, The fashion of this world passeth away, (1 Cor. 7:13.) then shall succeed a new world, in which instead of sensible light, Christ Himself shall shine as a sunbeam, and as the King of the new world, and so mighty and glorious will be His light, that the sun which now dazzles so brightly, and the moon and all the stars, shall be hidden by the coming of a far greater light.
CHRYSOSTOM. For as in this world the moon and the stars are soon dimmed by the rising of the sun, so at the glorious appearance of Christ shall the sun become dark, and the moon not shed her ray, and the stars shall fall from heaven, stripped of their former attire, that they may put on the robe of a better light.
EUSEBIUS. What things shall befall the world after the darkening of the orbs of light, and whence shall arise the straitening of nations, He next explains as follows, And on the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea. Wherein He seems to teach, that the beginning of the universal change will be owing to the failing of the watery substance. For this being first absorbed or congealed, so that no longer is heard the roaring of the sea, nor do the waves reach the shore because of the exceeding drought, the other parts of the world, ceasing to obtain the usual vapour which came forth from the watery matter, shall undergo a revolution. Accordingly since the appearance of Christ must put down the prodigies which resist God, namely, those of Antichrist, the beginnings of wrath shall take their rise from droughts, such as that neither storm nor roaring of the sea be any more heard. And this event shall be succeeded by the distress of the men who survive; as it follows, Men’s hearts being dried up for fear, and looking after those things which shall come upon the whole world. But the things that shall then come upon the world He proceeds to declare, adding, For the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
THEOPHYLACT. Or else, When the higher world shall be changed, then also the lower elements shall suffer loss; whence it follows, And on the earth distress of nations, &c. As if He said, the sea shall roar terribly, and its shores shall be shaken with the tempest, so that of the people and nations of the earth there shall be distress, that is, a universal misery, so that they shall pine away from fear and expectation of the evils which are coming upon the world.
AUGUSTINE. (ad Hes. Ep. 199.) But you will say, your punishment compels you to confess that the end is now approaching, seeing the fulfilment of that which was foretold. For it is certain there is no country, no place in our time, which is not affected or troubled. But if those evils which mankind now suffer are sure signs that our Lord is now about to come, what meaneth that which the Apostle says, For when they shall say peace and safety. (1 Thess. 5:3.) Let us see then if it be not perhaps better to understand the words of prophecy to be not so fulfilled, but rather that they will come to pass when the tribulation of the whole world shall be such that it shall belong to the Church, which shall be troubled by the whole world, not to those who shall trouble it. For they are those who shall say, Peace and safety. But now these evils which are counted the greatest and most immoderate, we see to be common to both the kingdoms of Christ and the Devil. For the good and the evil are alike afflicted with them, and among these great evils is the yet universal resort to licentious feasts. Is not this the being dried up from fear, or rather the being burnt up from lust?
THEOPHYLACT. But not only shall men be tossed about when the world shall be changed, but angels even shall stand amazed at the terrible revolutions of the universe. Hence it follows, And the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
GREGORY. (Hom. 1. in Ev.) For whom does He call the powers of heaven, but the angels, dominions, principalities, and powers? which at the coming of the strict Judge shall then appear visibly to our eyes, that they may strictly exact judgment of us, seeing that now our invisible Creator patiently bears with us.
EUSEBIUS. When also the Son of God shall come in glory, and shall crush the proud empire of the son of sin, the angels of heaven attending Him, the doors of heaven which have been shut from the foundation of the world shall be opened, that the things that are on high may be witnessed.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ad Olymp. Ep. 2.) Or the heavenly powers shall be shaken, although themselves know it not. For when they see the innumerable multitudes condemned, they shall not stand there without trembling.
BEDE. Thus it is said in Job, the pillars of heaven tremble and are afraid at his reproof. (Job 26:11.) What then do the boards do, when the pillars tremble? what does the shrub of the desert suffer, when the cedar of Paradise is shaken?
EUSEBIUS. Or the powers of heaven are those which preside over the sensible parts of the universe, which indeed shall then be shaken that they may attain to a better state. For they shall be discharged from the ministry with which they serve God toward the sensible bodies in their perishing condition.
AUGUSTINE. (ad Hes. ut sup.) But that the Lord may not seem to have foretold as extraordinary those things concerning His second coming, which were wont to happen to this world even before His first coming, and that we may not be laughed at by those who have read more and greater events than these in the history of nations, I think what has been said may be better understood to apply to the Church. For the Church is the sun, the moon, and the stars, to whom it was said, Fair as the moon, elect as the sun. (Cant. 6:10.) And she will then not be seen for the unbounded rage of the persecutors.
AMBROSE. While many also fall away from religion, clear faith will be obscured by the cloud of unbelief, for to me that Sun of righteousness is either diminished or increased according to my faith; and as the moon in its monthly wanings, or when it is opposite the sun by the interposition of the earth, suffers eclipse, so also the holy Church when the sins of the flesh oppose the heavenly light, cannot borrow the brightness of divine light from Christ’s rays. For in persecutions, the love of this world generally shuts out the light of the divine Sun; the stars also fall, that is, men who shine in glory fall when the bitterness of persecution waxes sharp and prevails. And this must be until the multitude of the Church be gathered in, for thus are the good tried and the weak made manifest.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) But in the words, And upon the earth distress of nations, He would understand by nations, not those which shall be blessed in the seed of Abraham, but those which shall stand on the left hand.
AMBROSE. So severe then will be the manifold fires of our souls, that with consciences depraved through the multitude of crimes, by reason of our fear of the coming judgment, the dew of the sacred fountain will be dried upon us. But as the Lord’s coming is looked for, in order that His presence may dwell in the whole circle of mankind or the world, which now dwells in each individual who has embraced Christ with his whole heart, so the powers of heaven shall at our Lord’s coming obtain an increase of grace, and shall be moved by the fulness of the Divine nature more closely infusing itself. There are also heavenly powers which proclaim the glory of God, which shall be stirred by a fuller infusion of Christ, that they may see Christ.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) Or the powers of heaven shall be stirred, because when the ungodly persecute, some of the most stout-hearted believers shall be troubled.
THEOPHYLACT. (ut sup.) It follows, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds. Both the believers and unbelievers shall see Him, for He Himself as well as His cross shall glisten brighter than the sun, and so shall be observed of all.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) But the words, coming in the clouds, may be taken in two ways. Either coming in His Church as it were in a cloud, as He now ceases not to come. But then it shall be with great power and majesty, for far greater will His power and might appear to His saints, to whom He will give great virtue, that they may not be overcome in such a fearful persecution. Or in His body in which He sits at His Father’s right hand He must rightly be supposed to come, and not only in His body, but also in a cloud, for He will come even as He went away, And a cloud received him out of their sight.
CHRYSOSTOM. For God ever appears in a cloud, according to the Psalms, clouds and darkness are round about him. (Ps. 17:11.) Therefore shall the Son of man come in the clouds as God, and the Lord, not secretly, but in glory worthy of God. Therefore He adds, with great power and majesty.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Great must be understood in like manner. For His first appearance He made in our weakness and lowliness, the second He shall celebrate in all His own power.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) For in power and majesty will men see Him, whom in lowly stations they refused to hear, that so much the more acutely they may feel His power, as they are now the less willing to bow the necks of their hearts to His sufferings.
34. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
THEOPHYLACT. Our Lord declared above the fearful and sensible signs of the evils which should overtake sinners, against which the only remedy is watching and prayer, as it is said, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time, &c.
BASIL. (Hom. 1. in illud Atten de tibi.) Every animal has within itself certain instincts which it has received from God, for the preservation of its own being. Wherefore Christ has also given us this warning, that what comes to them by nature, may be ours by the aid of reason and prudence: that we may flee from sin as the brute creatures shun deadly food, but that we seek after righteousness, as they wholesome herbs. Therefore saith He, Take heed to yourselves, that is, that you may distinguish the noxious from the wholesome. But since there are two ways of taking heed to ourselves, the one with the bodily eyes, the other by the faculties of the soul, and the bodily eye does not reach to virtue; it remains that we speak of the operations of the soul. Take heed, that is, Look around you on all sides, keeping an ever watchful eye to the guardianship of your soul. He says not, Take heed to your own or to the things around, but to yourselves. For ye are mind and spirit, your body is only of sense. Around you are riches, arts, and all the appendages of life, you must not mind these, but your soul, of which you must take especial care. The same admonition tends both to the healing of the sick, and the perfecting of those that are well, namely, such as are the guardians of the present, the providers of the future, not judging the actions of others, but strictly searching their own, not suffering the mind to be the slave of their passions, but subduing the irrational part of the soul to the rational. But the reason why we should take heed He adds as follows, Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged, &c.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. As if He says, Beware lest the eyes of your mind wax heavy. For the cares of this life, and surfeiting, and drunkenness, scare away prudence, shatter and make shipwreck of faith.
CLEMENT OF ALEXENDRIA. (Clem. Al. lib. ii. Pædag. c. 2.) Drunkenness is an excessive use of wine; crapula1 is the uneasiness, and nausea attendant on drunkenness, a Greek word so called from the motion of the head. And a little below. As then we must partake of food lest we suffer hunger, so also of drink lest we thirst, but with still greater care to avoid falling into excess. For the indulgence of wine is deceitful, and the soul when free from wine will be the wisest and best, but steeped in the fumes of wine is lost as in a cloud.
BASIL. (in Reg. Brev. ad int. 88.) But carefulness, or the care of this life, although it seems to have nothing unlawful in it, nevertheless if it conduce not to religion, must be avoided. And the reason why He said this He shews by what comes next, And so that day come upon you unawares.
THEOPHYLACT. For that day will not come when men are expecting it, but unlooked for and by stealth, taking as a snare those who are unwary. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that sit upon the face of the earth. But this we may diligently keep far from us. For that day will take those that sit on the face of the earth, as the unthinking and slothful. But as many as are prompt and active in the way of good, not sitting and loitering on the ground, but rising from it, saying to themselves, Rise up, begone, for here there is no rest for thee. To such that day is not as a perilous snare, but a day of rejoicing.
EUSEBIUS. He taught them therefore to take heed unto the things we have just before mentioned, lest they fall into the indolence resulting therefrom. Hence it follows, Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass.
THEOPHYLACT. Namely, hunger, pestilence, and such like, which for a time only threaten the elect and others, and those things also which are hereafter the lot of the guilty for ever. For these we can in no wise escape, save by watching and prayer.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. l. ii. c. 77.) This is supposed to be that flight which Matthew mentions; which must not be in the winter or on the sabbath day. To the winter belong the cares of this life, which are mournful as the winter, but to the sabbath surfeiting and drunkenness, which drowns and buries the heart in carnal luxury and delight, since on that day the Jews are immersed in worldly pleasure, while they are lost to a spiritual sabbath.
THEOPHYLACT. And because a Christian needs not only to flee evil, but to strive to obtain glory, He adds, And to stand before the Son of man. For this is the glory of angels, to stand before the Son of man, our God, and always to behold His face.
BEDE. Now supposing a physician should bid us beware of the juice of a certain herb, lest a sudden death overtake us, we should most earnestly attend to his command; but when our Saviour warns us to shun drunkenness and surfeiting, and the cares of this world, men have no fear of being wounded and destroyed by them; for the faith which they put in the caution of the physician, they disdain to give to the words of God.