POPE BENEDICT XVI’ REFLECTION HOMILY ON THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B.
First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2011
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, together with the Church, we are beginning the new liturgical year: a new journey of faith to experience together in Christian communities but, as always, also to be taken within world history so as to open it to God’s mystery, to the salvation that comes from his love. The liturgical year begins with the Season of Advent. It is a marvellous period in which the expectation of Christ’s return and the memory of his first Coming — when he emptied himself of his divine glory to take on our mortal flesh — reawakens in hearts.
“Watch!” This is Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel. He does not only address it to his disciples but to everyone: “Watch!” (Mk 13:37). It is a salutary reminder to us that life does not only have an earthly dimension but reaches towards a “beyond”, like a plantlet that sprouts from the ground and opens towards the sky. A thinking plantlet, man, endowed with freedom and responsibility, which is why each one of us will be called to account for how he/she has lived, how each one has used the talents with which each is endowed: whether one has kept them to oneself or has made them productive for the good of one’s brethren too.
Today, Isaiah, too, the prophet of Advent, with a heartfelt entreaty addressed to God on behalf of the people, gives us food for thought. He recognized the shortcomings of his people and said at a certain point: “There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our iniquities” (cf. Is 64:6).
How can we fail to find this description striking? It seems to reflect certain panoramas of the post-modern world: cities where life becomes anonymous and horizontal, where God seems absent and man the only master, as if he were the architect and director of all things: construction, work, the economy, transport, the branches of knowledge, technology, everything seems to depend on man alone. And in this world that appears almost perfect at times disturbing things happen, either in nature or in society, which is why we think that God has, as it were, withdrawn and has, so to speak, left us to ourselves.
In fact, the true “master” of the world is not the human being but God. The Gospel says: “Watch therefore — for you do not know when the master of the house will coming, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning — lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (Mk 13:35-36).
The Season of Advent returns every year to remind us of this in order that our life may find its proper orientation, turned to the face of God. The face is not that of a “master” but of a Father and a Friend. Let us make the Prophet’s words our own, together with the Virgin Mary who guides us on our Advent journey.”O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are our potter: we are all the work of your hand” (Is 64:8).
30 November 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This season invites us to reflect on the dimension of time, which always exerts great fascination over us. However, after the example of what Jesus loved to do, I wish to start with a very concrete observation: we all say that we do not have enough time, because the pace of daily life has become frenetic for everyone. In this regard too, the Church has “good news” to bring: God gives us his time. We always have little time; especially for the Lord, we do not know how or, sometimes, we do not want to find it. Well, God has time for us! This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with ever new amazement. Yes, God gives us his time, because he entered history with his Word and his works of salvation to open it to eternity, to make it become a covenantal history. In this prospective, already in itself time is a fundamental sign of God’s love: a gift that man, as with everything else, is able to make the most of or, on the contrary, to waste; to take in its significance or to neglect with obtuse superficiality.
Then there are the three great “points” in time, which delineate the history of salvation: at the beginning, Creation; the Incarnation-Redemption at the centre and at the end the “parousia”, the final coming that also includes the Last Judgment. However, these three moments should not be viewed merely in chronological succession. In fact, Creation is at the origin of all things but it also continues and is actuated through the whole span of cosmic becoming, until the end of time. So too, although the Incarnation-Redemption occurred at a specific moment in history the period of Jesus’ journey on earth it nevertheless extends its radius of action to all the preceding time and all that is to come. And in their turn, the final coming and the Last Judgment, which were decisively anticipated precisely in the Cross of Christ, exercise their influence on the conduct of the people of every age.
The liturgical season of Advent celebrates the coming of God in its two moments: it first invites us to reawaken our expectation of Christ’s glorious return, then, as Christmas approaches, it calls us to welcome the Word made man for our salvation. Yet the Lord comes into our lives continually. How timely then, is Jesus’ call, which on this First Sunday is powerfully proposed to us: “Watch!” (Mk 13: 33, 35, 37). It is addressed to the disciples but also to everyone, because each one, at a time known to God alone, will be called to account for his life. This involves a proper detachment from earthly goods, sincere repentance for one’s errors, active charity to one’s neighbour and above all a humble and confident entrustment to the hands of God, our tender and merciful Father. The icon of Advent is the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. Let us invoke her so that she may help us also to become an extension of humanity for the Lord who comes.
7 November 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Advent begins this Sunday. It is a very evocative religious season because it is interwoven with hope and spiritual expectation: every time the Christian community prepares to commemorate the Redeemer’s birth, it feels a quiver of joy which to a certain extent it communicates to the whole of society.
In Advent, Christians relive a dual impulse of the spirit: on the one hand, they raise their eyes towards the final destination of their pilgrimage through history, which is the glorious return of the Lord Jesus; on the other, remembering with emotion his birth in Bethlehem, they kneel before the Crib.
The hope of Christians is turned to the future but remains firmly rooted in an event of the past. In the fullness of time, the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary: “Born of a woman, born under the law”, as the Apostle Paul writes (Gal 4:4).
Today’s Gospel invites us to stay on guard as we await the final coming of Christ. “Look around you!”, Jesus says. “You do not know when the master of the house is coming” (Mk 13:35). The short parable of the master who went on a journey and the servants responsible for acting in his place highlights how important it is to be ready to welcome the Lord when he suddenly returns.
The Christian community waits anxiously for his “manifestation”, and the Apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, urges them to trust in God’s fidelity and to live so as to be found “blameless” (cf. I Cor 1:7-9) on the day of the Lord. Most appropriately, therefore, the liturgy at the beginning of Advent puts on our lips the Psalm: “Show us, O Lord, your kindness, and grant us your salvation” (cf. Ps 85:8).
We might say that Advent is the season in which Christians must rekindle in their hearts the hope that they will be able with God’s help to renew the world.
In this regard I would also like to remember today the Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, on the Church in the Modern World: it is a text deeply imbued with Christian hope.
I am referring in particular to n. 39, entitled “New Heavens and a New Earth”. In it we read: “We are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (cf. II Cor 5:2; II Pt 3:13)…. Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows”.
Indeed, we will find the good fruits of our hard work when Christ delivers to the Father his eternal and universal Kingdom. May Mary Most Holy, Virgin of Advent, obtain that we live this time of grace in a watchful and hardworking way while we await the Lord.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saturday, 26 November 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With the celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday in Advent we are beginning a new liturgical year. In singing the Psalms together, we have raised our hearts to God, placing ourselves in the spiritual attitude that marks this season of grace: “vigilance in prayer” and “exultation in praise” (cf.Roman Missal, Advent Preface, II/A).
Taking as our model Mary Most Holy, who teaches us to live by devoutly listening to the Word of God, let us reflect on the short Bible Reading just proclaimed.
It consists of two verses contained in the concluding part of the First Letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians (I Thes 5: 23-24). The first expresses the Apostle’s greeting to the community: the second offers, as it were, the guarantee of its fulfilment.
The hope expressed is that each one may be made holy by God and preserved irreproachable in his entire person – “spirit, soul and body” – for the final coming of the Lord Jesus; the guarantee that this can happen is offered by the faithfulness of God himself, who will not fail to bring to completion the work he has begun in believers.
This First Letter to the Thessalonians is the first of all St Paul’s Letters, written probably in the year 51. In this first Letter we can feel, more than in the others, the Apostle’s pulsating heart, his paternal, indeed we can say maternal, love for this new community. And we also feel his anxious concern that the faith of this new Church not die, surrounded as she was by a cultural context in many regards in opposition to the faith.
Thus, Paul ends his Letter with a hope, or we might almost say with a prayer. The content of the prayer we have heard is that they [the Thessalonians] should be holy and irreproachable to the moment of the Lord’s coming. The central word of this prayer is “coming“. We should ask ourselves what does “coming of the Lord” mean? In Greek it is “parousia”, in Latin “adventus”, “advent”, “coming”. What is this “coming”? Does it involve us or not?
To understand the meaning of this word, hence, of the Apostle’s prayer for this community and for communities of all times – also for us – we must look at the person through whom the coming of the Lord was uniquely brought about: the Virgin Mary.
Mary belonged to that part of the People of Israel who in Jesus’ time were waiting with heartfelt expectation for the Saviour’s coming. And from the words and acts recounted in the Gospel, we can see how she truly lived steeped in the Prophets’ words; she entirely expected the Lord’s coming.
She could not, however, have imagined how this coming would be brought about. Perhaps she expected a coming in glory. The moment when the Archangel Gabriel entered her house and told her that the Lord, the Saviour, wanted to take flesh in her, wanted to bring about his coming through her, must have been all the more surprising to her.
We can imagine the Virgin’s apprehension. Mary, with a tremendous act of faith and obedience, said “yes”: “I am the servant of the Lord”. And so it was that she became the “dwelling place” of the Lord, a true “temple” in the world and a “door” through which the Lord entered upon the earth.
We have said that this coming was unique: “the” coming of the Lord. Yet there is not only the final coming at the end of time: in a certain sense the Lord always wants to come through us. And he knocks at the door of our hearts: are you willing to give me your flesh, your time, your life?
This is the voice of the Lord who also wants to enter our epoch, he wants to enter human life through us. He also seeks a living dwelling place in our personal lives. This is the coming of the Lord. Let us once again learn this in the season of Advent: the Lord can also come among us.
Therefore we can say that this prayer, this hope, expressed by the Apostle, contains a fundamental truth that he seeks to inculcate in the faithful of the community he founded and that we can sum up as follows: God calls us to communion with him, which will be completely fulfilled in the return of Christ, and he himself strives to ensure that we will arrive prepared for this final and decisive encounter. The future is, so to speak, contained in the present, or better, in the presence of God himself, who in his unfailing love does not leave us on our own or abandon us even for an instant, just as a father and mother never stop caring for their children while they are growing up.
Before Christ who comes, men and women are defined in the whole of their being, which the Apostle sums up in the words “spirit, soul and body”, thereby indicating the whole of the human person as a unit with somatic, psychic and spiritual dimensions. Sanctification is God’s gift and his project, but human beings are called to respond with their entire being without excluding any part of themselves.
It is the Holy Spirit himself who formed in the Virgin’s womb Jesus, the perfect Man, who brings God’s marvellous plan to completion in the human person, first of all by transforming the heart and from this centre, all the rest.
Thus, the entire work of creation and redemption which God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, continues to bring about, from the beginning to the end of the cosmos and of history, is summed up in every individual person. And since the first coming of Christ is at the centre of the history of humanity and at its end, his glorious return, so every personal existence is called to be measured against him – in a mysterious and multiform way – during the earthly pilgrimage, in order to be found “in him” at the moment of his return.
May Mary Most Holy, the faithful Virgin, guide us to make this time of Advent and of the whole new liturgical year a path of genuine sanctification, to the praise and glory of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter’s Basilica
Saturday, 29 November 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With this evening liturgy, we begin the itinerary of a new liturgical year, entering into the first of its seasons: Advent. In the biblical reading that we have just heard, taken from the First Letter to the Thessalonians, the Apostle Paul uses precisely this word: “coming“, which in Greek is parusia and adventus in Latin (1 Thes 5: 23). According to the common tradition of this text, Paul urges the Christians of Thessalonica to keep themselves blameless “for the coming” of the Lord. However, in the original text one reads “in the coming” (εν τη παρουσια), almost as if the advent of the Lord were more so than a future point in time a spiritual place in which to walk already in the present, while waiting, and in which one is indeed perfectly preserved in every personal dimension. In fact, it is exactly this that we live out in the liturgy. By celebrating the liturgical seasons we actualize the mystery in this case the Lord’s coming as it were “walking in it” towards its full realization at the end of time, but already drawing sanctifying virtue from it, since the last times have already begun with Christ’s death and Resurrection.
The word that sums up this particular state, in which one awaits something that is to be manifested but of which one also already has a glimpse and a foretaste, is “hope”. Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in it the whole Church is called to become hope, for herself and for the world. The whole organism of the Mystical Body acquires, so to speak, the “colour” of hope. The whole People of God continue on their journey, attracted by this mystery: that our God is “the God who comes” and calls us to go to meet him. How? In the first place in that universal form of hope and expectation which is prayer, which is eminently expressed in the Psalms, human words in which God himself has placed and continually places the invocation of his coming on the lips and in the hearts of believers. Let us therefore reflect for a few moments on two of his Psalms which we have just prayed and which are consecutive in the biblical Book: Psalms 141 and 142, according to the Jewish numbering.
“I have called to you, Lord; make hasten to help me! / Hear my voice, when I cry to you. / Let my prayer arise before you like incense, / the raising of my hands like an evening oblation” (Ps 141: 1-2). Thus begins the first Psalm of the First Vespers for the first week of the Psalter: words which, at the beginning of Advent, acquire a new “colour”, because the Holy Spirit makes them resound ever anew within us in the Church on her way between the time of God and human times. “Lord, hasten to help me!”. It is the cry of someone who feels he is in grave danger but it is also the cry of the Church amid the many threats that surround her, that threaten her holiness, the irreproachable integrity of which the Apostle Paul speaks which instead must be preserved for the Lord’s coming. And in this invocation the cry of all the just also resounds, of all those who want to resist evil, the seduction of an iniquitous well-being, of pleasures offensive to human dignity and to the condition of the poor. At the beginning of Advent the Church’s liturgy once again makes this cry her own, and raises it to God “like incense” (v. 2). The evening offering of incense is in fact a symbol of prayer, of the outpouring of hearts turned to God, to the Most High, as well as “the raising of… hands like an evening oblation” (v. 2). Material sacrifices, as it also took place in the Jewish temple, are no longer offered in the Church, but the spiritual offering of prayer is raised, joined to that of Jesus Christ who is at the same time Sacrifice and Priest of the new and eternal covenant. In the cry of the Mystical Body we recognize the very voice of the Head: the Son of God who has taken upon himself our trials and our temptations, to give us the grace of his victory.
This identification of Christ with the Psalmist is particularly evident in the second Psalm (142). Here, every word, every invocation, makes one think of Jesus in his passion, and in particular of his prayer to the Father in Gethsemane. In his first coming, with the Incarnation, the Son of God wanted to share fully in our human condition. Of course, he did not share in sin, but for our salvation suffered all its consequences. In praying Psalm 142 the Church relives every time the grace of this compassion, of this “coming” of the Son of God in human anguish so deeply as to plumb its depths. The Advent cry of hope then expresses from the outset and very powerfully, the full gravity of our state, of our extreme need of salvation. It is as if to say: we await the Lord not in the same way as a beautiful decoration upon a world already saved, but as the only way of liberation from a mortal danger and we know that he himself, the Liberator, had to suffer and die to bring us out of this prison (cf. v. 8).
In short, these two Psalms shelter us from any temptation to escape or flee from reality; they preserve us from a false hope that might desire to enter Advent and move towards Christmas forgetting the tragedy of our personal and collective existence. In fact, a trustworthy hope that is not deceptive, can only be a “Paschal” hope, as the canticle of the Letter to the Philippians reminds us every Saturday evening, with which we praise the Incarnate Christ, crucified, Risen and our universal Lord. Let us turn our gaze and our heart to him, in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Advent. Let us place our hand in hers and enter joyfully into this new time of grace that God gives as a gift to his Church for the good of all humanity. Like Mary and with her maternal help, let us make ourselves docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that the God of peace may sanctify us totally, and the Church become a sign and instrument of hope for all men. Amen.
SEE AS WELL:
1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B 2020 MASS PRAYERS AND READINGS HERE.
POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B HERE.
REFLECTION HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR B HERE.