'What, at this moment of my life, does my heart long for?' Sunday Reflections, 1st Sunday of Advent, Year A

Madonna del Terremoto (Our Lady of the Earthquake)
Francesco di Giorgio Martini [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings(Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Matthew 24:37-44 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 

‘Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’

Matthew 24:37-44 in Filipino Sign Language

Last Tuesday, 26 November, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Albania, not far from the capital, Tirana. More than 40 people died. Among them were members of the family of Fehmi Vata, 73. He was spared because he had taken a job as an overnight security guard. 

He rushed several kilometres home to find that his wife, two grandchildren and a daughter-in-law were trapped under the rubble of their first-floor flat in a collapsed five-storey apartment building in the town of Thumane . . . Fehmi’s 10-year-old grandson was among those pulled from the rubble alive, but his wife was not lucky. She died while cradling her [other] grandson in her arms in an unsuccessful effort to protect him. His daughter-in-law survived but was badly injured and evacuated to hospital. 'My wife always said she would die for her grandchildren, it looks like she did that,' Vata said.

The Gospel of St John (15:13) tells us: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Surely those words apply to the wife of Fehmi Vata.

Today's Gospel tells us: Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. ‘Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.'

One way we can always be prepared for whatever comes is by going to confession regularly, the sacrament given us as a gift by Jesus Christ himself so that we can approach God as sinners, trusting in his mercy, and obtain his forgiveness.

Pope Benedict XVI  [Wikipedia]

As we enter Advent we enter a time of waiting and preparation. Pope Benedict spoke about this eloquently in his Angelus talk on Sunday 28 November 2010, the First Sunday of Advent. I have highlighted parts of his talk.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins a new Liturgical Year, a new journey of faith that on the one hand commemorates the event of Jesus Christ and, on the other, opens to its ultimate fulfilment. It is precisely in this double perspective that she lives the Season of Advent, looking both to the first coming of the Son of God, when he was born of the Virgin Mary, and to his glorious return, when he will come 'to judge the living and the dead', as we say in the Creed. I would now like to focus briefly on this evocative theme of ‘waiting’, for it touches upon a profoundly human aspect in which the faith becomes, so to speak, completely one with our flesh and our heart.

Expectation or waiting is a dimension that flows through our whole personal, family and social existence. Expectation is present in thousands of situations, from the smallest and most banal to the most important that involve us completely and in our depths. Among these, let us think of waiting for a child, on the part of a husband and wife; of waiting for a relative or friend who is coming from far away to visit us; let us think, for a young person, of waiting to know his results in a crucially important examination or of the outcome of a job interview; in emotional relationships, of waiting to meet the beloved, of waiting for the answer to a letter, or for the acceptance of forgiveness . . . One could say that man is alive as long as he waits, as long as hope is alive in his heart. And from his expectations man recognizes himself: our moral and spiritual 'stature' can be measured by what we wait for, by what we hope for.

Every one of us, therefore, especially in this Season which prepares us for Christmas, can ask himself: What am I waiting for? What, at this moment of my life, does my heart long for? And this same question can be posed at the level of the family, of the community, of the nation. What are we waiting for together? What unites our aspirations, what brings them together? In the time before Jesus’ birth the expectation of the Messiah was very strong in Israel – that is, the expectation of an Anointed one, a descendent of King David, who would at last set the people free from every form of moral and political slavery and find the Kingdom of God. 

But no one would ever have imagined that the Messiah could be born of a humble girl like Mary, the betrothed of a righteous man, Joseph. Nor would she have ever thought of it, and yet in her heart the expectation of the Saviour was so great, her faith and hope were so ardent, that he was able to find in her a worthy mother. Moreover, God himself had prepared her before time. There is a mysterious correspondence between the waiting of God and that of Mary, the creature ‘full of grace’, totally transparent to the loving plan of the Most High. Let us learn from her, the Woman of Advent, how to live our daily actions with a new spirit, with the feeling of profound expectation that only the coming of God can fulfil.

Virgin Mary Annunciate
Blessed Fra Angelico [Web Gallery of Art]

The Incarnation reveals to us, with intense light and in a surprising way, that every human life has a very lofty and incomparable dignity (Benedict XVI).

These words were spoken by Pope Benedict in his homily at a celebration of First Vespers for the Unborn in St Peter's on 27 November 2010 to mark the beginning of Advent. In the homily Pope Benedict reminds us: God loves us deeply, totally and without making distinctions. He calls us to friendship with him, he makes us part of a reality beyond every imagination and every thought and word: his divine life itself.

He notes: The human person is a good in himself and his integral development must always be sought. Love for all, moreover, if it is sincere, tends spontaneously to become preferential attention to the weakest and poorest. This explains the Church’s concern for the unborn, the frailest, those most threatened by the selfishness of adults and the clouding of consciences.

Pope Benedict draws to our attention that the unborn baby is not an accumulation of biological material but rather of a new living being, dynamic and marvellously ordered, a new individual of the human species. This is what Jesus was in Mary’s womb; this is what we all were in our mother’s womb. We may say with Tertullian, an ancient Christian writer: 'the one who will be a man is one already' (Apologeticum IX, 8), there is no reason not to consider him a person from conception.

The full text of the Pope's homily is here.

Antiphona ad Introitum
Entrance Antiphon   Cf. Psalm 24[25]:1-3

Ad te levávi ánimam meam, Deus meus,
To you, I lift up my soul, O my God.
in te confído, non erubéscam.
In you, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame.
Neque irrídeant me inimíci mei,
Nor let my enemies exult over me;
étenim univérsi qui te exspéctant non confundéntur.
and let none who hope in you be put to shame.

The singers are the monks of St Benedict Monastery, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


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