1st Sunday of Advent C
DECEMBER 2, 2018 – Angelus
Today Advent begins, the liturgical time which prepares us for Christmas, inviting us to lift our gaze and open our hearts to welcome Jesus. During Advent we do not just live in anticipation of Christmas; we are also called to rekindle the anticipation of the glorious return of Christ — when he will return at the end of time — preparing ourselves, with consistent and courageous choices, for the final encounter with him. We remember Christmas, we await the glorious return of Christ, and also our personal encounter: the day in which the Lord will call.
During these four weeks we are called to leave behind a resigned and routine way of life and to go forth, nourishing hope, nourishing dreams for a new future. This Sunday’s Gospel (cf. Lk 21:25-28, 34-36) goes in this very direction and puts us on guard against allowing ourselves to be oppressed by an egocentric lifestyle or by the phrenetic pace of our days. Jesus’ words resonate in a particularly incisive way: “take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly … But watch at all times, praying” (vv. 34, 36).
To be mindful and to pray: this is how to live the time between now and Christmas. To be mindful and to pray. Inner listlessness comes from always turning around ourselves and being blocked by our own life, with its problems, its joy, and suffering, but always turning around ourselves. And this is wearying; this is dull, this closes us off to hope. Here lies the root of the lethargy and laziness that the Gospel speaks about. Advent invites us to a commitment to vigilance, looking beyond ourselves, expanding our mind and heart in order to open ourselves up to the needs of people, of brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world. It is the desire of many people tormented by hunger, by injustice and by war. It is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned. This is a favourable time to open our hearts, to ask ourselves concrete questions about how and for whom we expend our lives.
The second attitude to best experience the time of awaiting the Lord is that of prayer. Arise, “look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (v. 28), the Gospel of Luke cautions. It is about standing up and praying, turning our thoughts and our hearts to Jesus who is about to come. One stands when awaiting something or someone. We await Jesus and we wish to await him in prayer which is closely linked to vigilance. Praying, awaiting Jesus, opening oneself to others, being mindful, not withdrawn in ourselves. But if we think of Christmas in the light of consumerism, of seeing what I can buy in order to do this and that, of a worldly celebration, Jesus will pass by and we will not find him. We await Jesus and we wish to await him in prayer which is closely linked to vigilance.
But what is the horizon of our prayerful anticipation? In the Bible the voices of the prophets are especially revealing to us. Today it is that of Jeremiah who speaks to the people who had been harshly tried by exile and who risked losing their very identity. We Christians too, who are also the People of God, run the risk of becoming worldly and of losing our identity, indeed of ‘paganizing’ the Christian way. Therefore, we need the Word of God through which the prophet proclaims: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made … I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (Jer 33:14-15). And that righteous branch is Jesus. It is Jesus who comes and whom we await. May the Virgin Mary, who leads us to Jesus, a woman of expectation and prayer, help us to strengthen our hope in the promises of her Son Jesus, in order to enable us to understand that through the travail of history, God always remains steadfast and uses human errors, too, to manifest his mercy.
SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website
DECEMBER 2, 2012 – ANGELUS
The word “advent” means “coming” or “presence”. In the ancient world it meant the visit of the king or emperor to a province; in the Christian language it refers to the Coming of God, to his presence in the world; a mystery that embraces the entire cosmos and history, but that has two culminating events: the First and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The first is, precisely, the Incarnation. The second is his glorious return at the end of time. These two events that are chronologically distant — and we are not given to know by how long — are deeply connected, because with his death and Resurrection Jesus fulfilled that transformation of man and of the cosmos which is the final goal of Creation. However, before the end, the Gospel must be proclaimed to all the nations, as Jesus says in the Gospel according to St Mark (see Mk 13:10). The Lord’s Coming continues, the world must be penetrated by his presence and this ongoing Coming of the Lord in the proclamation of the Gospel requires our continuous collaboration. Moreover the Church, who is, as it were, the Betrothed, the promised Bride of the Lamb of the Crucified and Risen God (see Rev 21:9), in communion with her Lord, collaborates in this Coming of the Lord, in which his glorious return has already begun.
Today the word of God calls us to this, outlining the lines of conduct we should follow to be ready for the Lord’s Coming. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus says to the disciples: “take heed… lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life… at all times, praying” (Lk 21:34, 36). Therefore, moderation and prayer. And the Apostle Paul adds the invitation to “increase and abound in love” among ourselves and for everyone, to make our hearts blameless in holiness (see 1 Thess 3:12-13).
In the midst of the upheavals of the world or in the deserts of indifference and materialism, may Christians accept salvation from God and bear witness to it with a different way of life, like a city set upon a hill. “In those days”, the Prophet Jeremiah announced, “Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness” (33:16). The community of believers is a sign of God’s love, of his justice which is already present and active in history but is not yet completely fulfilled and must therefore always be awaited, invoked and sought with patience and courage.
The Virgin Mary perfectly embodies the spirit of Advent that consists in listening to God, with a profound desire to do his will and to serve our neighbour joyfully. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by her, so that God who comes may not find us closed or distracted but rather may extend a little of his kingdom of love, justice and peace in each of us.
November 29, 2009 – ANGELUS
This is the reality of the Liturgical Year seen, so to speak, “from God’s perspective”. And from the perspective, let us say, of humankind, of history and of society what importance can it have? The answer is suggested to us precisely by the journey through Advent on which we are setting out today. The contemporary world above all needs hope; the developing peoples need it, but so do those that are economically advanced. We are becoming increasingly aware that we are all on one boat and together must save each other. Seeing so much false security collapse, we realize that what we need most is a trustworthy hope. This is found in Christ alone. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, he “is the same yesterday and today and for ever (Heb 13: 8). The Lord Jesus came in the past, comes in the present and will come in the future. He embraces all the dimensions of time, because he died and rose; he is “the Living One”. While he shares our human precariousness, he remains forever and offers us the stability of God himself. He is “flesh” like us and “rock” like God. Whoever yearns for freedom, justice, and peace may rise again and raise his head, for in Christ liberation is drawing near (see Lk 21: 28) as we read in today’s Gospel. We can therefore say that Jesus Christ is not only relevant to Christians, or only to believers, but to all men and women, for Christ, who is the centre of faith, is also the foundation of hope. And every human being is constantly in need of hope.
Dear brothers and sisters, the Virgin Mary fully embodies a humanity that lives in hope based on faith in the living God. She is the Virgin of Advent: she is firmly established in the present, in the “today” of salvation. In her heart she gathers up all past promises, and encompasses the future. Let us learn from her in order to truly enter this Season of grace and to accept, with joy and responsibility, the coming of God in our personal and social lives.
November 29, 2009 – FIRST VESPERS OF ADVENT
Let us reflect briefly on the meaning of this word, which can be rendered with “presence”, “arrival” or “coming”. In the language of the ancient world it was a technical term used to indicate the arrival of an official or the visit of the king or emperor to a province. However, it could also mean the coming of the divinity that emerges from concealment to manifest himself forcefully or that was celebrated as being present in worship. Christians used the word “advent” to express their relationship with Jesus Christ: Jesus is the King who entered this poor “province” called “earth” to pay everyone a visit; he makes all those who believe in him participate in his Coming, all who believe in his presence in the liturgical assembly. The essential meaning of the word adventus was: God is here, he has not withdrawn from the world, he has not deserted us. Even if we cannot see and touch him as we can tangible realities, he is here and comes to visit us in many ways.
The meaning of the expression “advent” therefore includes that of visitatio, which simply and specifically means “visit”; in this case it is a question of a visit from God: he enters my life and wishes to speak to me. In our daily lives we all experience having little time for the Lord and also little time for ourselves. We end by being absorbed in “doing”. Is it not true that activities often absorb us and that society with its multiple interests monopolizes our attention? Is it not true that we devote a lot of time to entertainment and to various kinds of amusement? At times we get carried away. Advent, this powerful liturgical season that we are beginning, invites us to pause in silence to understand a presence. It is an invitation to understand that the individual events of the day are hints that God is giving us, signs of the attention he has for each one of us. How often does God give us a glimpse of his love! To keep, as it were, an “interior journal” of this love would be a beautiful and salutary task for our life! Advent invites and stimulates us to contemplate the Lord present. Should not the certainty of his presence help us see the world with different eyes? Should it not help us to consider the whole of our life as a “visit”, as a way in which he can come to us and become close to us in every situation?
Another fundamental element of Advent is expectation, an expectation which is at the same time hope. Advent impels us to understand the meaning of time and of history as a kairós, as a favourable opportunity for our salvation. Jesus illustrated this mysterious reality in many parables: in the story of the servants sent to await the return of their master; in the parable of the virgins who await the bridegroom; and in those of the sower and of the harvest. In their lives human beings are constantly waiting: when they are children they want to grow up, as adults they are striving for fulfilment and success and, as they advance in age, they look forward to the rest they deserve. However, the time comes when they find they have hoped too little if, over and above their profession or social position, there is nothing left to hope for. Hope marks humanity’s journey but for Christians it is enlivened by a certainty: the Lord is present in the passage of our lives, he accompanies us and will one day also dry our tears. One day, not far off, everything will find its fulfilment in the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of justice and peace.
However there are many different ways of waiting. If time is not filled by a present endowed with meaning expectation risks becoming unbearable; if one expects something but at a given moment there is nothing, in other words if the present remains empty, every instant that passes appears extremely long and waiting becomes too heavy a burden because the future remains completely uncertain. On the other hand, when time is endowed with meaning and at every instant we perceive something specific and worthwhile, it is then that the joy of expectation makes the present more precious. Dear brothers and sisters, let us experience intensely the present in which we already receive the gifts of the Lord, let us live it focused on the future, a future charged with hope. In this manner Christian Advent becomes an opportunity to reawaken within ourselves the true meaning of waiting, returning to the heart of our faith which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah who was expected for long centuries and was born in poverty, in Bethlehem. In coming among us, he brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and his salvation. Present among us, he speaks to us in many ways: in Sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in the whole of the creation whose aspect changes according to whether Christ is behind it or whether he is obscured by the fog of an uncertain origin and an uncertain future. We in turn may speak to him, presenting to him the suffering that afflicts us, our impatience, the questions that well up in our hearts. We may be sure that he always listens to us! And if Jesus is present, there is no longer any time that lacks meaning or is empty. If he is present, we may continue to hope, even when others can no longer assure us of any support, even when the present becomes trying.
Dear friends, Advent is the season of the presence and expectation of the eternal. For this very reason, it is in a particular way a period of joy, an interiorized joy that no suffering can diminish. It is joy in the fact that God made himself a Child. This joy, invisibly present within us, encourages us to journey on with confidence. A model and support of this deep joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom we were given the Infant Jesus. May she, a faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace of living this liturgical season alert and hardworking, while we wait. Amen!
November 30, 1997 – HOMILY
1. “But watch at all times, praying that you may have the strength … to stand before the Son of Man” (Lk 21:36).
Christ’s words, taken from Luke’s Gospel, introduce us to the profound meaning of the liturgy we are celebrating. On this First Sunday in Advent, which marks the beginning of the second year of immediate preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the exhortation to watch and pray so as to be ready to meet the Lord sounds as vibrant and timely as ever.
Our thoughts turn immediately to next Christmas, when once again we will kneel at the newborn Saviour’s cradle. But we are also thinking of the great date of the Year 2000, when the whole Church will relive, with particular intensity, the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word. We are invited to hasten our steps towards that goal, letting ourselves be guided, especially during this liturgical year, by the light of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, “the primary tasks of the preparation for the Jubilee thus include a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Spirit, who acts with in the Church” (Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 45).
In this perspective, the Committee for the Great Jubilee continues to carry out its work with praiseworthy effort. Its valuable ecclesial service deserves to be encouraged, especially in this phase, which is now so close to the historic date. Thanks to the initiatives of encouragement and co-ordination set in motion by this central office, the People of God will be given ever better guidance and motivation on their way to crossing the threshold of the third millennium.
2. Today the Church in Rome is also gathered in this basilica for another reason: the presentation of the Cross to the men and women missionaries who are taking on the task of proclaiming the Gospel in the various milieus of this metropolis.
We have heard the words of the Apostle Paul: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men” (1 Thes 3:12). It is precisely with this hope that the Bishop of Rome presents the Cross to all of you, dear missionaries, and to your parish communities. Is it not here that we find the secret to the success of the City Mission? Jesus himself has linked the effectiveness of the disciples’ Gospel preaching to their mutual love: “that they may all be one … in us, so that the world may believe …” (Jn 17:21).
The Mission’s success depends on the intensity of love. The third Person of the Holy Trinity is subsistent love. Who better than he can pour out love into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5)? Thus there is a providential coincidence between the opening of the second year of preparation for the Great Jubilee, dedicated to the Holy Spirit, and the presentation of the Cross to you, who during this year will have the leading role in the Mission throughout the city. I assure you of special help from the Holy Spirit, whom the Mission recognizes as its primary, undisputed agent.
3. “Open the door to Christ, your Saviour!”. This is the invitation at the heart of the City Mission, but it must first echo in our own hearts. We ourselves must first open the doors of our conscience and our life to Christ the Saviour, making ourselves docile to the Spirit’s action, so that we are more and more conformed to the Lord. Indeed, he cannot be proclaimed unless his image is reflected and brought to life in us by the grace and action of the Spirit.
Dear missionaries, have a strong love for the individuals and families you will meet. People need love, understanding and forgiveness. Be especially attentive and close to those families having difficulties with their faith, their marriage, or because of poverty and suffering. Every family in Rome must see your acts and your words as so many signs of God’s mercy and the Church’s welcome. As far as possible, even after your visit, maintain a personal relationship with the families you meet and with each individual member.
Love the Church to which you belong and who sends you out as missionaries. Teach others to love her by your words and example. Share with her your passion for men’s salvation. Love the Church which is holy, because she was purified by the blood Christ shed on the cross.
Strive to be holy too! Accept St Paul’s exhortation re-echoed in the second reading, “so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness” (1 Thes 3:13). The call to mission stems from the call to holiness. Respond to it generously. Open the doors of your life to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, who renews the face of the earth and turns hearts of stone into hearts of flesh capable of loving as Christ loved us (cf. Jn 15:12).
4. As you visit every home and the families of your parishes, you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul: I came to you in weakness and in much fear and trembling, to proclaim to you Jesus Christ and him crucified (cf. 1 Cor 2:1-3). The true strength of your missionary service lies in the simplicity of your proclamation, accompanied by love for the persons you visit. Compared to the many persuasive and attractive human messages which bombard peoples’ lives every day, the Gospel can perhaps seem weak and poor when viewed superficially, but in reality it is the most powerful and effective word that can be spoken, because it penetrates hearts and, thanks to the Holy Spirit’s mysterious action, leads to conversion and the encounter with God.
I would like to make my own the Apostle’s invitation to grow and to distinguish yourselves by doing good: “you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God … you do so more and more” (1 Thes 4:1). In fact, the Mission must be a suitable occasion for each parish to begin a new relationship with the people living in its territory, so that it is better able to reach everyone with the offer of faith, to be more available to requests and expectations and more present in each person’s daily life. Thus the parish can be more authentically itself in its generous apostolic and missionary commitment to those who live outside it.
5. Dear missionaries of Rome! Today I say to each of you what I wrote to young people on 8 September last, inviting them to be willing to accept and help those who would like to approach the faith and the Church. May none of those the Father sets on our path go astray! (cf. Letter to the Young People of Rome, n. 9; L’Osservatore Romano, 14 September 1997, p. 6).
I also repeat it to you, priests and deacons, that you may rekindle the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of the Bishop’s hands (cf. 2 Tm 1:6). With the Good Shepherd’s love and concern, go in search of all who have strayed and are awaiting a gesture, a word from you to be able to rediscover God’s love and forgiveness.
I would like to point the Mission out to you, men and women religious, as a fertile ground for giving a strong witness of joyful Gospel service. I ask cloistered religious, in particular, to put themselves at the very heart of the Mission by their constant prayer of adoration and contemplation of the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.
Once again I say to you, dear young people and children: your active participation in the City Mission is an indispensable gift for the community. Take the lead in the most beautiful and thrilling adventure to which you can devote your life: that of proclaiming Christ and his Gospel. With your gifts and talents made available to the Lord, you can and must contribute to the work of salvation in our beloved city.
I also renew my invitation to you, dear Christian families, rich in the gift of faith and love; I invite you to live your call to mission with dedication, offering your service to the other families who live near by, with friendship, solidarity and courage in presenting the truth of the Gospel.
I address a special thought to you, dear friends who are sick, elderly or alone. You have been entrusted with a task of great importance in the Mission: offer your daily prayers and sufferings for the success of this apostolic undertaking, so that the Lord’s grace may accompany the missionaries’ visits to families and make the hearts of those who welcome them open and disposed to conversion.
6. “Behold the days are coming … when I will fulfil the promise I made“ (Jer 33:14). By the Spirit’s action, the Lord leads the history of salvation down the ages until its ultimate fulfilment. “Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth!”. As you did for Mary, the Virgin of Advent, send your Spirit upon us. Send your Spirit, O Lord, on the city of Rome and renew its face! Send your Spirit into the whole world that is preparing to enter the third millennium of the Christian era.
Help us to accept, like Mary, the gift of your divine presence and protection. Help us to be docile to the promptings of the Spirit, so that we can proclaim with courage and apostolic zeal the Word who became flesh and came to dwell among us: Jesus Christ, God made Man, who has redeemed us by his Death and Resurrection. Amen!
© Copyright 1997 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana
SOURCE: The Holy See Archive at the Vatican Website