First Sunday of Advent,
Cycle B.

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Take Heed; Watch and Pray.

The lay 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

Leader: 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. 

As we begin the season of Advent, we ask God to prepare us for change in our lives so that we maybe ready to greet the child Jesus when he comes in Bethlehem at Christmas.

If you have an Advent wreath, it can be blessed now.

Leader: 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. 

Gracious God, 

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.

If you have some Holy Water, you can now sprinkle the wreath.

Leader: The first candle of Advent is the candle of Hope. 

We light this candle remembering that our hope is in the Lord.

The first purple candle is lit. If you have a Jesse Tree, the first 5 symbols can be placed. You can download “The Christmas Wreath and Jesse Tree: A Guide for Family Reflections 2020” from the parish Website and the parish App for the reflections. 

The service continues with the Liturgy of the Word.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Isaiah 63:16d-17;64:1,3b-8

Introduction to the reading: The Israelites had just returned from exile and were suffering economic hardship and persecution. The prophet expresses their expectation that God will intervene in human history in a dramatic way to help them. At the end of this reading, we will hear a familiar image.

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

You, O Lord, are our Father,
our Redeemer, from old is your name.
O Lord, why do you make us err from your ways
and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you?
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.

O that you would tear the heavens and come down,
that the mountains might quake at your presence!

You came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From of old no one has heard
or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.
You meet him that joyfully works righteousness,
those that remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one that calls upon your name,
that bestirs himself to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquities.

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial psalm: Psalm  80:3b.2ac&3b.15-16a.18-19

R/: O God, bring us back;
let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.

O shepherd of Israel, hear us,

enthroned on the cherubim, shine forth.

Rouse up your might and come to save us.

God of hosts, turn again, we implore;

look down from heaven and see.

Visit this vine and protect it,

the vine your right hand has planted.

May your hand be on the man at your right hand,

the son of man you have confirmed as your own.

And we shall never forsake you again,

give us life that we may call upon your name.

R/.: O God, bring us back;
let your face shine on us, and we shall be saved.

Second reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Introduction to the reading: In the letter-writing style popular in Paul’s day, writers would begin by extending greetings and then thank the gods for the blessings they themselves had received. But Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthians by thanking God for the blessings his converts in Corinth have received. It may help to know that the phrase “day of the Lord” refers to Jesus coming again in glory

A reading from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace
from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I give thanks to God always for you
because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,
that in every way you were enriched in him
with all speech and all knowledge
even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift,
as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ;
who will sustain you to the end,
guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Word of the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy, and grant us your salvation.

Alleluia!

Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

At that time:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take heed, watch and pray;
for you do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man going on a journey,
when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge,
each with his work,
and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.
Watch therefore
for you do not know when the master of the house will come,
in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning
lest he come suddenly and find you asleep
And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

Homily 

One young priest was preaching his first sermon and he was very nervous. It was in one of those ancient churches where the pulpit was high up in the middle of the church. He started with the text, “Behold I come!” Then his mind went blank. He bravely repeated, “Behold I come!” Still his frightened brain wouldn’t function. So he leaned over the pulpit and repeated once more, “Behold I come!” At that moment the pulpit collapsed. He tumbled over into the lap of a lady. He got up and, red-faced, stammered, “Oh, I’m sorry! Please forgive me!” The lady was not upset in the least and replied, “That’s all right. I should have been expecting you. After all you warned me three times!”  😊

In today’s Gospel Jesus is saying to the world, “Ready or not — here I come.” 

Whether you are watching this Mass on YouTube, or sitting in the church today, the changes in the church are noticeable.   The vestments the priest wears has changed from green to violet. We have a bare tree on the sanctuary. This is the Jesse Tree and it will be filled with symbols representing the family tree of Jesus. We lit the first candle on the Advent wreath.

It is the first Sunday of Advent and we start reading  from the Gospel of Mark for the Sunday gospel readings. Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels and the shortest. It is only 16 chapters long, but it had a profound effect on the others. There is a great deal of emphasis on the suffering and death of Jesus and the call for disciples to follow him by taking up their cross. In the other Gospels Jesus promises blessings for those who give up houses and family for his sake. 

Only in Mark does Jesus indicate that with blessings there will also be persecutions (e.g.Mk 10:30). Mark wrote his gospel around 70 A.D. and the consensus is that he wrote it for the church in Rome during the time of Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians. Like Mark’s first readers, we find strength in God’s Word and the Eucharist to follow the way of our Master, denying self and taking up his cross of self-giving love.

As we begin Advent, we are reminded about watching and waiting. Especially during these pandemic-threatened days, as we wait for a vaccine, we call out, “When are you coming to rescue us O Lord? Where are you? Why do you delay?” Jesus directs us, “Be watchful! Be alert!” For what? He urges us not to get discouraged in the overwhelming details and questions raised by these days, but to be ready to welcome him. How can we do that? We are doing that already as we try to prayerfully be attentive to the Word, respond to what we hear and watch for his entrance into our lives as we wait for his final return?

In the midst of the economic devastation in our country, we need to make sure that the powers around us are really working towards the common good. These crisis days have shown us the terrible effects of greed, disunity and selfish interests. We are called to strengthen the ties that bind us to one another like: compassion, understanding, forgiveness and communal interests. Jesus urges us to keep awake lest we let those evil-intentioned powers break into our “house.” This Advent we are the faithful servants who have the responsibility for the household Jesus has left in our care.

A big handicap to our spiritual growth is that we “doze off,” that is, we live almost unconsciously. We are preoccupied by our routine and habitual lives and don’t notice opportunities to grow in awareness of what is happening in our world and immediately around us. If the pandemic has any good side-effects, and who wants to admit anything good can come from this horror (!), it might have awakened us and made us more watchful for how and when the Lord is coming to us throughout the day – “whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cock crow, or in the morning.”

Later during Advent those able to gather in church will sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” The prayer goes back to the late fifth, or early sixth century. It was a time of the decline of the Western Roman Empire. Armies of marauding Vandals, Huns and other peoples from the northern parts of Europe were invading and conquering the southern part of Europe. There was a collapse of law and order and society and people were fleeing in fear. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” was a prayer for the millions forced into exile – the hymn names them – “lonely exiles.” 

Today another pillaging pandemic has invaded every country, race and class of people. We yearn to return to our Advent welcoming and comfortable churches. But instead these days we are joined to our ancestors in faith pleading, like them, for deliverance. Vikings are not at our gates coming to wreak havoc. Instead, the virus has forced its way into the very inner sanctums of our homes evoking fear and a sense of powerlessness.  What shall we do? We pray as our ancestors in faith prayed, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”

For a few weeks now and especially this weekend, we have been flooded with advertising material about Black Friday sales and specials. All this hype originated in the USA and now in South Africa our retailers have joined in. The shops are decked out with Christmas stuff. In the world Christmas seems to be in October and November and then it ends abruptly on Christmas day. On Boxing Day all the Christmas things are removed and suddenly it is ‘Back to School’ promotions everywhere. And yet that is only the start of the real Christ in Christmas season. 

In the midst of these conflicting messages of commercialism and consumerism, we need to preserve and nourish the spiritual aspects of the coming Christmas season. That is what Advent can do for us. Advent is a time of reflection on our lives. Advent can show us changes we must make. The scripture readings throughout Advent can help us along our path of self examination and readiness for the Lord’s coming. We have also been told by medical experts to: be alert, wear masks, wash our hands, keep social distancing, etc.  Now Jesus is giving a similar kind of advice, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Many of us are very busy trying to keep our jobs, or find new ones; teach the kids at home; shop safely for food. For what else do we need to watch and be vigilant?

Advent can seem like the “same old, same old.” We’ve heard the stories and sung these hymns before. That is why the first gospel of this new season calls us to wake up. We will need help to do that. Let’s stay with today’s Psalm response: “O God, bring us back; let your face shine on us and we shall be saved.”

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus said to his disciples,

“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch.’”

Reflection:

Advent has begun and we need this season’s reminder to be alert to Jesus’ entry into our lives. For who among us has not dozed in our service of the Lord? Jesus’ words of warning awake us to full disciple-readiness. This day Christ will again come into our lives. Are we doing what he told us? “Watch.”

So, we ask ourselves: 

  • The Lord is coming. What daily practice can help me stay alert, so that I can detect Jesus’ presence when he enters my life?
  • What will help me become more aware of Christ already with me in all aspects of my life? 

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: Let us turn to God our Father and put our needs before him.

Reader:

We pray for the Church: (pause) that she may bear witness to God’s presence in Advent so that we may be ready to greet Jesus at Christmas.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for patience during this Advent season for each of us: (pause) that we may discover God’s word in every sound that touches our ears, God’s touch in every human embrace, and God’s love in every gesture of self-sacrifice among us.
LORD HEAR US

We pray for all those that are suffering through poverty and injustice: (pause) that the Lord may give them hope and strength in this Advent season.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are combating the coronavirus: (pause) that God will bring healing to the sick, strength to their caregivers, and wisdom to those researching cures.
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.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for Gianfranco Campetti who died this 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 prayer for Advent:

Lord God, 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.

Spiritual Communion

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 at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

CONCLUDING RITE

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: Rend the heavens and come down,
O God of all the ages!
Rouse us from sleep,
deliver us from our heedless ways,
and form us into a watchful people,
that, at the advent of your Son,
he may find us doing what is right, mindful of all you command.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.

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