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First Sunday of Advent 2008

 
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Fr.Paul Weinberger
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Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 199
Location: Greenville, Texas

PostPosted: Sun Dec 07, 2008 9:35 am    Post subject: First Sunday of Advent 2008 Reply with quote

First Sunday of Advent 2008

Father Paul Weinberger
Saint William the Confessor Catholic Church
Greenville, Texas
November 30, 2008

Lord, make us turn to you.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Amen

This is the first half of the Antiphon for the Responsorial Psalm today.

Lord, make us turn to you.

The bishop of Tulsa Oklahoma, Bishop Slattery, has been included in the bulletin here at St. William’s over the last five years. His words are to help his people understand this season of Advent and our need to turn to the Lord. Bishop Slattery did something today and will continue doing it throughout the Sundays of Advent, to call attention to this spiritual need of turning to the Lord with his physical posture at Holy Mass. He is offering the same Mass that is offered here, but the difference is, instead of being on that side of the Altar he is stepping around to this side and is facing the Lord.

In the Tabernacle is the reserved Sacrament, Holy Communion, and of course Our Lord Jesus Christ is in Holy Communion. By merely coming around and coming from one side of the Altar to the other, he is turning to the Lord. I know, over the last forty years you have heard people say, “He has his back to us.” Funny that people have never complained that the airline pilot has his back to us as well, or dad driving in the front seat and having his back to us. We are all facing the same direction and Bishop Slattery is calling attention to the fact that the bishop and everyone in his Diocese have the same spiritual need to turn to the Lord.

Pope Benedict XVI has used this same posture over his entire priesthood. In the past forty years he has offered Mass that way continually in Rome. In fact, on the day he was chosen to be Pope, he offered his first Mass in the Sistine Chapel with all the Cardinals facing the Lord, all facing God and turning to the Lord. A book, which carried that theme, was published just over a year ago and Pope Benedict wrote the introduction to that book, underlining the need that the Church has and will always have, to turn to the Lord.

These four Sundays of Advent that precede the great Feast of Christmas is an abbreviated form of Lent, the forty days before Easter. In fact you see one of the similarities here, the color of the vestment during Lent and Advent is purple, which is a color of penance. Isn’t it interesting that penance is seen as necessary to help us turn to the Lord?

Some people might think that everyone already knows and understand this... if only that were true. I read with shock that up in New York, at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving and just moments before the store was to open, the lower animals waiting outside, or I should say the human beings acting as if they were lower animals, broke the doors and rushed in. A man, who had not even reached his 40th birthday, was trampled under foot and a pregnant woman was knocked to the ground and nearly suffered a similar fate as the man. She is in the hospital. Hum, a young man, a pregnant woman…these seem to be almost eerie in symbolism when we consider that what happens at Christmas every year takes place in Bethlehem with St. Joseph, Our Lady, and the Christ Child, Who is about to be born.

I have a very close relative who is Catholic, and every year on the day after Thanksgiving she immediately puts out all of the Christmas decorations. There is one place you don’t want to be the day after Christmas and that is between her living room and the sidewalk. “Get that tree out of here right now, I am tired of looking at it.” That is the day after Christmas day. You have already heard Christmas music in the shops and on the radio up until and on December 25th. Well, the Twelve days of Christmas song is one that starts on the 25th, Christmas Day, and then goes forward twelve days. We’ve turned that on its head, so that we think of the twelve days as a head start…getting to the sales before it is Christmas time. Yet, if you have already set your tree and lights up don’t change anything, but next year consider being in accord with the Tradition of the Church, which uses the four Sundays of Advent before Christmas as preparation time and then pulling out all the stops on Christmas Day and going forward. This is something to consider. Everyone doesn’t get it and so we have to be part of helping them get it by understanding it ourselves and being an example.

In a nutshell, Our Lady and St. Joseph were on the way to Bethlehem according to the imperial Edict, to register for the census and no doubt because they were from Bethlehem, they had family and friends living there. All we hear is that they found no room at the Inn; perhaps the same family and friends owned an Inn or two there, but no room could be found so they found a stable, probably a cave near by and that is where the Savior of the world was born; in that humble manger.

To understand this mystery of Christmas and all of its implications we must first understand that, as Catholics we are on day one of a new calendar year. Today starts the new calendar year with the first of four Sundays leading up to Christmas. We are blessed in so many ways but we have this New Year and then the secular New Year on January 1st. Starting over as we have done again and again has a certain blessing to it; to begin again fresh and new after a bad time or a string of failures is always a good thing; it is good for the soul.

There are some things that should help us get off on the right foot and some of these things we should attempt. Unless your leg is broken I would suggest that everyone would benefit from a Confession made over the next four weeks. Just as during Lent, many make it a point to go to Confession and it is the same with this abbreviated Lent, which is Advent. The Church recommends to us, the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. Reading the bible and selecting this book from the Old Testament, Isaiah is quoted often by Our Lord in the New Testament. It had a special attraction to Him and so He spoke of it often. We should also turn to the Old Testament and read from the Prophet Isaiah. In fact, in the Divine Office for today we find Chapter 1, verse 1, of the Prophet Isaiah. If you take out your bible at home and begin to read chapter after chapter it would be very helpful in preparing for Christmas.

It is interesting because Chapter 7, verse 11, has that great exchange between Isaiah the Prophet and that terrible King of Judah, Ahaz. Ahaz was a rotten king and yet God was willing to reveal great mysteries to Ahaz. In the exchange between Ahaz and Isaiah, Ahaz is met by Isaiah, who tells him in his abyss of unworthiness, “Ask for a sign from the Lord your God; let it be deep as the nether world or high as the sky.” But Ahaz answered, “I will not tempt the Lord,” feigning some kind of piety; he must not be so bold. Here is a man that sacrificed his son to a pagan god and he is pretending to have gotten religion. Isaiah, just holding back his anger said, “Listen O House of Israel, is it not enough for you to weary men, must you weary also my God? Therefore the Lords Himself will give you the sign. The Virgin will be with child and bear a Son and shall name Him Emmanuel.”

Over a hundred years before the time of Christ, this beautiful prophecy of Isaiah seems to cap off all of the prophecies speaking of the Messiah’s coming in the Old Testament. But, as you read Isaiah you will come to a section, which speaks of the suffering servant of God and describes in great detail what is going to happen to the Messiah. Did you notice that after the first verse in that song we began Mass with we kind of abandoned the Christmas theme and started right in, and seriously, with the Passion of the Lord? If you go back and look at the hymn, you will notice that it is listed as an Advent Hymn, which talks about the coming of Christ two-thousand years ago and how Christ was born in Bethlehem so that He might suffer and die for us and lead us to Heaven if only we would turn to the Lord, turn in His direction.

You can also go forward to the New Testament and begin reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, who begins to tell us about the preparations for the coming of the Messiah. Or you could take the approach of reading and meditating on the Bible through the recitation of the Rosary. You see over there, Our Lady of the Rosary, and the baby Jesus is extending His arms and hold forth the Rosary, which is the Gospel meditation on the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. During Lent it is not uncommon for people to pray only the Sorrowful Mysteries and then praying only the Glorious Mysteries during Easter. In the same way we could pray only the Joyful Mysteries during Advent as well as the Sorrowful Mysteries, keeping in line with Isaiah the Prophet.

We will reap tremendous spiritual benefits if we do this and if we use our posture at prayer to turn to the Lord rather than being at prayer but thinking of things we need to do or buy; the whole “to do” list needs to be put on the back burner and wherever we are we must leave that aside and make room for the Lord. When we make room for the Lord and have Him firmly inside of our inner room we turn to Him and give Him the attention He rightly deserves but so seldom gets from me and possibly from you.

Lord, make us turn to you.

The Lord gives us a great admonition in the Gospel. The last word….

Be on your watch

Again and again in the Gospels our Lord tells us we know neither the day nor the hour. I was reading in the paper today about that family from Waxahachie, who’d gone to Mexico to see family. The whole family was together and grandma was along with them. They started over a bridge that had been washed away months ago by floods. There were no signs or barricades saying that the bridge had been washed away. They all plunged to their deaths. It is kind of like what you see on the bulletin; that is St. Andrew the Apostle being crucified. Today is the Feast of St. Andrew. You know neither the day nor the hour.

The time of Advent is a time of watchful preparation for the cross that will come to us all; it is inevitable is you have blood pressure and a pulse that the cross will come to you as it did to our Lord.

“Lord, make us turn to you,” should be our refrain throughout Advent and then to carry it on throughout the rest of the year.

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Amen
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