Sunday, 28 April 2013

1st Sunday of Advent - Year A

Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

You may have noticed a little change in the parish bulletin header this week. The phrase Striving for holiness ... has been replaced with Starting afresh from Christ ....

The inspiration for this change is twofold.

Firstly it's a response to the awareness that this is a special time of beginning - not only the season of Advent; not only a new liturgical year (Year A); not only a new three year liturgical cycle, but also the first Sunday of the rest of our lives. We are being called to start afresh and what better way to do that than from Christ?

The second inspiration for this change is Pope John Paul II. In his Apostolic Letter NOVO MILLENNIO INEUNTE, at the beginning of the new millennium, he exhorted the whole Church to start afresh from Christ and to begin our 'starting' by contemplating the Face of Christ. What a wonderful task he set us!

To contemplate the face of Christ is not just to contemplate the physical details of his face, his external appearance, his looks as they are suggested to us from images such as the Shroud of Turin or the Veil of Veronica.

Nor is it just to contemplate his look – the way he looks at me. It is both of these things but even more.

To contemplate the face of Christ is to contemplate, as deeply as we can, his truth, his inner being, the inner reality of the man who is God.

To contemplate the face of Christ is to contemplate the human face of a man but also the human face of God.

To contemplate the face of Christ is to contemplate the face of one who loves us. The face of one who loves us is always a special face. Notice the way young couples in love look at each other. Jesus loves us with the very love of God. We contemplate not just love on the face of Jesus but the we contemplate the face of Love.

To contemplate the face of Christ is to contemplate one who contemplates us. How we long to see this face - the face of one who never grows tired of 'gazing' at us - the face of one who wants us, who desires us so passionately that he gave his very life for us!

To contemplate the face of Christ is to begin to contemplate ourselves. As we contemplate the Word made Flesh we are contemplating the Word by whom and through whom and for whom we were made. In contemplating him we begin to see our own meaning, dignity and value, and the more we do this the more we penetrate this mystery of who we ourselves are.
Finally, to contemplate the beautiful face of Christ is to ourselves become more beautiful. As a husband and wife often take on each other's characteristic features so we begin more and more to resemble the one we contemplate. And surely this is the very goal of our contemplation - ultimately to be transformed into him.

So this Advent let us start afresh from Christ by longing for, searching for, and contemplating his Face.

This is the Church's invitation to each one of us and she promises to help us, to encourage us, to direct us.
  • She offers us the Word of Sacred Scripture. We need to search for him and contemplate him there - every day. As Pope John Paul II said in No 17 of Tertio Millennio Ineunte: The contemplation of Christ's face cannot fail to be inspired by all that we are told about him in Sacred Scripture...
  • She offers us the presence, word and action of Jesus in each of her Sacraments. We need to contemplate him there.
  • She offers her members, the Community, those in communion with Christ. We need search for him and contemplate him there.
It would not be untrue to say that we are all here today because we are searching for Christ. The Church knows this so the first words (Entrance Antiphon) she asked us to say today are: To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you...
And then, in the Opening Prayer: Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour...
Listen to Mother Church urging us on in the many joyful imperatives sprinkled throughout the liturgy:

Come –

  • let us go up to the mountain of the Lord
  • let us walk in the light of the Lord
  • let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord
  • let us go to God’s house
  • wake up now
  • Let us give up all the things we prefer to do under the cover of the dark
  • let us arm ourselves and appear in the light
  • let us live decently
  • let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ
  • stay awake
  • stand ready
This season of Advent is a marvellous spiritual opportunity for us, a promise of real enrichment. On a practical level let us:
  • make a resolution to read the Bible every day, if only for 10 minutes.
  • renew our determination to be faithful to the Sunday Mass.
  • stop avoiding involvement in the Community.

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