First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C.
28th November, 2021
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Raise Your Heads, Your Liberation is Close at Hand.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. During Advent we prepare ourselves for the Christmas celebration, a time when we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ our saviour as well as remembering His promised return.
The Israelites waited for hundreds of years for their promised Messiah, in whom they placed all their hopes and expectations. In the same way we look forward expectantly to Christmas and to Christ for the fulfilment of our hopes and expectations.
For those who have an Advent wreath can now say a prayer of Blessing:
Let us Pray
Lord our God,
We praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ:
He is Emmanuel, the hope of the peoples,
He is the wisdom that teaches and guides us,
He is the Saviour of every nation.
Let your blessing come upon us
as we light the candles of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ’s promise to bring us salvation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lighting the first purple candle:
The first candle of Advent is the candle of hope.
We light this candle remembering that our hope is in the Lord.
(The first violet/purple candle is lit by a member of the family.)
Families with a Jesse Tree can use the following, or the text from the Family Advent book available at the Bryanston Catholic Church.
The Jesse Tree is the family tree of Jesus named after Jesse, the father of King David of Israel. Isaiah proclaimed “From the root of Jesse a branch shall spring forth, out of his roots a flower shall blossom.” (Isaiah 11, 1-2). The symbols on the Jesse Tree remind us of the people and events of salvation history as we look forward to the coming of the Saviour.
- The birth of life: The marvel of creation, in all its beauty, complexity and splendour comes from God. (pause)
- Adam and Eve represent our earliest ancestors through whom God gave humankind life. (pause)
- Noah built an ark to preserve his family from the flood: The Ark is a symbol of refuge for mankind and creation. We too should preserve and defend all of God’s creation and look to God for refuge. (pause)
- Abraham obeyed God’s call to move to a new land: Abraham gives us courage to embrace all of life’s challenges and tread purposefully on unknown paths trusting our lives and all we have and all our circumstances to God. (pause)
- Jacob’s Ladder: The angels ascending and descending between heaven and earth remind us that we too are always connected to heaven. (pause)
The first verse of the Advent Wreath Hymn can be sung.
(Tune: Away in a Manger)
A candle is burning, a flame warm and bright;
A candle of Hope in December’s hot nights.
While angels sing blessings from heav’n’s starry sky
Our hearts we prepare now, for Jesus is nigh.
We continue with the Liturgy of the Word.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
Introduction to the reading: The prophet Jeremiah lived at a difficult time in Jewish history. Jerusalem, their beloved capitol, had been destroyed, and most of the people taken captive to far-off Babylon, which is in present-day Iraq. Despite this gloomy setting, Jeremiah expresses the conviction that the Lord will raise up a new leader from the line of David to restore and rebuild their native land.
A reading from the Book of Jeremiah.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will fulfil the promise
I made to the house of Israel
and the house of Judah.
In those days and at that time
I will cause a righteous Branch to spring forth for David,
and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will dwell securely.
And this is the name by which it will be called:
‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5ab.8-9.10 & 14 (R. 1)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O Lord, make me know your ways.
Teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth, and teach me;
for you are the God of my salvation.
Good and upright is the Lord;
he shows the way to sinners.
He guides the humble in right judgment;
to the humble, he teaches his way.
All the Lord’s paths are mercy and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and commands.
The Lord’s secret is for those who fear him;
to them, he reveals his covenant.
R/. To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Introduction to the reading:
The date was some 30 years after Christ’s death and resurrection. The place was a city in northeast Greece called Thessalonica, where Christians were being persecuted. Paul, who had brought the Gospel there, heard about their perseverance and sent a letter of encouragement.
A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.
Brothers and sisters:
May the Lord make you increase
and abound in love to one another and to all people,
as we do to you,
so that he may establish your hearts
unblamable in holiness before our God and Father,
at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
we beg and exhort you in the Lord Jesus,
that as you learned from us
how you ought to walk and to please God,
just as you are doing,
you do so more and more.
For you know what instructions we gave you
through the Lord Jesus.
The word of the Lord.
Show us your merciful love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Gospel: Luke 21:25-28.34-36
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“There will be signs in sun and moon and stars,
and upon the earth distress of nations
in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,
people fainting with fear and with foreboding
of what is coming on the world;
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
Now when these things begin to take place,
look up and raise your heads
because your redemption is drawing near.
But 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 like a snare;
for it will come upon all who dwell
upon the face of the whole earth.
But watch at all times,
praying to have strength
to escape all these things that will take place,
and to stand before the Son of man.”
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
There is a story about a farmer – lets call him John – who was out ploughing his fields. Something caught his attention and he looked up towards the sun.There was a white cloud near the sun and John saw bright red words written on the cloud.He had to squint to read the words that said THE END IS NEAR. John collapsed onto his knees and cried out – Lord help me. Then John hurried to his barn let his cows and all the animals out of their pens. He let all his chickens scatter, got into his suit and climbed on top of his house to await the end. When it didn’t come, he pouted and refused to come down off the roof. Finally, his wife called the local priest who came over and said, “John, you idiot, I saw that same sign. It is an advertising banner behind a little plane. It didn’t say, ‘The end is near.’ It said, ‘Go drink a beer.’ 😊 Now come down off that roof before you fall off and break your neck.”
From Jesus’ day to the present, people have speculated about when the world would end. The church gets us to reflect on the Four Last Things – death, judgement, heaven and hell during the last two weeks of Ordinary Time. This reflection continues today as we begin Advent – a time of waiting – a time of preparation.
The gospel promises that Jesus will return. Some people read today’s gospel and observe events on earth – pandemics, earthquakes, wars, plastics polluting the oceans and the food chain, global warming, extreme weather and believe they know the precise moment of Jesus’s arrival. They have always been wrong and always will be wrong. We are still waiting. Obviously the biblical description of Jesus’ return isn’t meant for people to predict the future.
Instead, it speaks to our hope and what we do while we wait.
And so, what about us? We are still waiting.
Jesus has not returned to draw the final curtain. What is more important is recognising the signs of his presence to show that he is already with his church. Jesus will be a very very very long time in coming for the end of the world, but he certainly is already present when his disciples mirror his extraordinary acts like: forgiving the offender; dedicating their lives to caring for the poor and infirm; challenging world powers to pursue peace; sharing the covid vaccine with all the peoples of the world; raising a good family under stressful conditions; speaking up to local and national governments for just legislation; having the courage to challenge corruption.
These are just some ways we can practice what Jesus tells us in today’s gospel, “Be vigilant at all times and pray…,” until he returns. That’s how people will know the already-presence of Christ in the world – by the powerful signs at work in his disciples.
As Jesus instructed us, we will practice vigilance till he returns and be on the watch for ways to put into action the faith we profess here in church today.
Does that disappoint us; leave us feeling let down? Where is the spectacular return Jesus promised?
We need to open the eyes of our faith and see. There have been Christians whose faith has shown Christ in splendour for all to see: Archbishop Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Blessed Benedict Daswa, Danny and Domitilla Hyams. These are recent saints and I encourage you to find out more about their stories.
In a way their lives were spectacular, similar to the gospel’s description of Jesus’s return – brilliant and obvious to anyone who saw or heard them. That’s how we understand the words: “And then you will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”
We are everyday Christians living quiet lives that witness to the “great glory” that reflects Jesus’ presence. We live our calling as disciples, hoping our behaviour reflects the Reign of God already present in the world. If we all lived faithful lives of daily discipleship we would be a powerful force for the transformation of the world.
And that would certainly show Jesus’ already-presence with us.
We can’t predict God’s schedule for the end-time, no matter how much we analyze and overwork these apocalytic texts. But we can work as individuals and as a faith community to stop the threats to human existence. We can join our efforts with people of goodwill to cherish the gifts of all people as well as preserve our natural environment upon which all our survival depends.
The gospel has scary and frightening warnings. The warnings apply to our personal world as well as the universal world. The end of the universal world is billions of years away. The end of our personal world happens at our death when we face judgement before the Lord. So we must be vigilant and do what we must to maintain our faith and keep our focus on Christ.
Today the Gospel makes us look to the future when God’s promises will come to completion. But we ought not live just in the future, though these pre-Christmas days do tend to be overloaded with planning and worrying about how we will celebrate the holidays if new lockdown restrictions come into place. The emergence of the omicron variety of covid is worrying.
So today we are invited to have hope in the future, but invest our energies in the present.
Each day we work and look for the now – presence of Christ in all the events and challenges that constitute our lives.
From today’s Gospel reading:
“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
In moments of tribulation, we can forget that Christ is present. It is the present and ever-renewing waters of baptism that enable us to respond when Jesus tells us, “Be vigilant….”
So we ask ourselves:
- What touched you or was meaningful in the readings today?
- In a time of “tribulation” or challenge, what gave you strength?
- What daily practice do you to help you keep “vigilant?”
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: My brothers and sisters, as we prepare in this Advent season to celebrate anew the coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, into our world, let us bring our needs and those of our world to God our loving Father.
We pray for Pope Francis and the bishops: (pause) that they may proclaim to the world the message of joy and hope that this Advent season brings.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the leaders of South Africa: (pause) that they may work with honesty and integrity to bring peace and reconciliation in those parts of our country torn apart by conflict and division.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for all migrants and refugees, for those forced to leave their homes to escape violence, poverty and oppression: (pause) that they may find a welcome in the places to which they turn.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for healing as the number of covid infections increases: that all may know God’s healing presence and entrust themselves to God’s loving care.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for all the faithful departed on the Pious Lists on the altar of our church.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Mick Mullen who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray our Advent Prayer:
in this holy season of Advent,
your Church joyfully awaits the coming of our Saviour who enlightens our hearts
and dispels the darkness of ignorance and sin.
Our hearts desire the warmth of your love
and our minds are searching
for the light of your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Savior
and give us the strength to grow in love,
that the dawn of his coming
may find us rejoicing in his presence
and welcoming the light of his truth.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: God our Saviour,
you utter a word of promise and hope
and hasten the day of justice and freedom,
yet we live in a world forgetful of your word,
our watchfulness dulled by the cares of life.
Keep us alert.
Make us attentive to your word,
ready to look on your Son when he comes with power and great glory.
Make us holy and blameless, ready to stand secure
when the day of his coming shakes the world with terror.
We ask this through him whose coming is certain,
whose day draws near:
your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.