I Sunday of Advent

I Sunday of Advent

Gio, 26 Nov 20 Lectio Divina - Anno B


1st Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1-8

Responsorial: Psalm 79: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19

2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

  Opening Prayer:

O God, our Father, in your never-failing faithfulness remember us,

work of your hands, and give us the help of your grace, so that we

await your glorious coming with love. 

1st Reading: Isaiah 63:16-17, 64:1-8

The text presents a prayer, where the prophet Isaiah addresses God, calling him twice - at the beginning and at the end of the prayer - "Lord", "Father". The first appeal to God is associated with his intervention as a liberator on behalf of Israel: God expresses his lordship, his fatherhood, freeing Israel from slavery. The second appeal refers to the shaping action of God towards the people. God, freeing Israel from slavery, works as a father, shapes his people. The repetition of these names creates a climate of trust in the prophet's prayer, who makes a double request to God: "Return for the sake of your servants" and "tear open the heavens and come down!".  The reason for the request is represented above all by the breaking of the covenant ("why, Lord, do you let us wander away from your ways and let our hearts harden so that we do not fear you?") and the memory of what God has done since the distant times in favour of his people.

The climate of trust leads the prophet to pray in different languages: that of theanguished questionthat lets us glimpse God's responsibility in the infidelity of the people ("so that you let us wander away from your ways and let our hearts harden so that we do not fear?"); that of supplication(“Turn back for the sake of your servants"), that of desire ("tear open the heavens and come down!"); that of thememory of a past that testifies to God's availability towards those who trust in him ("From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him"), availability which does not fail in the present ("You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways"); that of theconfessionof their iniquity that estranged the people from God ("no one invoked your name, no one woke up to cling to you"), corrupted them ("we have all become like an impure thing and a filthy cloth") and their private life ("we all fade like a leaf). At the conclusion of the prayer, the confession in God the Lord and Father returns (overwhelmingly): ("But/yet ..."), almost like a break with what the prophet had previously recognized. The meaning of this "But/yet": God does not cease to be a father to the "rebellious" people, he does not distance himself from them, on the contrary, he gives them life, shapes them with his own faithful love.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Saint Paul while greeting the Christians of Corinth addresses them as those who await the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ, who makes them steadfast to the end. Even in the time of vigilance, we are not alone and we are not left alone to our strength: faith makes us steadfast, and we lean on Jesus and we cling to him, who has overcome all adversities. Paul tells the Christians of Corinth that, through the grace received, God will make them steadfast to the end, and blameless. This is also a way of suggesting not to be afraid. And later (2 Cor. 12:9) he will give them the assurance of the Lord: "My grace is sufficient for you ...". There is a journey from Isaiah's anguish (first reading) to Paul's courageous faith, from depression to hope. It is a journey of faith that few generations of men and women are making in history. Paul reassures the Christians of Corinth on the reliability of God (“God is worthy of trust”) and points out how much God has decided on them (“you have been called to communion with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord!”). This is not a statement whatsoever, but a statement full of astonishment. For Paul, God will complete this project on all humanity, because He remains faithful to what He has decided.

Mark 13:33-37

With this first Sunday of Advent, the new liturgical year begins, year B, in which we read the Gospel according to Mark. The passage of today, however, is not the beginning of this gospel, but the last part of Jesus' eschatological discourse in chapter 13. This may seem strange but at the beginning of Advent, the Church always draws our gaze to the definitive coming of the Lord. 

The invitation that is addressed to us today is "Watch!” What does it mean? It means "stay awake", "pay attention": it is the attitude of the sentry who watches over the night. This "keeping watch" is characterized by the awareness that Someone is about to come, even if we do not know when, it is necessary to be prepared at all times because one thing is certain: He will come because His word is true. 

Throughout the whole Gospel, Jesus invites us to keep our eyes open to listen to the word of God ( cf. Mk 4:12; Is 6: 9-10), to discern the yeast of the Pharisees that easily insinuates itself into us ( cf. Mk 8: 15), so as not to believe those who predict the future as if they knew it (cf. Mk 13: 5.21-23). Here he invites us to keep our eyes open to watch and watch, a task that summarizes and gives meaning to all the precedents. 

The waiting we live is portrayed by Jesus in the parable in which the Son of man is absent, like a man who has gone on a journey. On leaving his house, he gave his servants faculties and responsibilities over the house itself and recommended that the caretaker watch over who enters and leaves at the door. For those servants and that caretaker, this is the time of responsibility: each has a specific task to perform, each a job to be accountable for. We understand that here Jesus is evoking his community, with responsible servants and a vigilant gatekeeper, the one who presides. Who knows when the Lord will come? In any case, he will certainly come suddenly, so it is necessary not to be asleep but to remain vigilant, avoiding letting ourselves be totally absorbed by the things of the world and worry about living according to the teachings of the Gospel, mindful of the simple but decisive warning of a desert father, Abba Poemen: "we do need nothing but a vigilant spirit." 

What I say to you, I say to everyone: Watch! The Gospel, which offers us the life and teaching of Jesus, has a value that overcomes any temporal and spatial barrier. Each verse of the Gospel contains this law which becomes a source of life for us because we find in the Gospels, and in the teaching of the Church, everything we need. Rarely, however, does Jesus explicitly address us also. How much then do we have to take into consideration, today his words concerning vigilance. The Father's mercy will always be ready to welcome anyone who asks to return to His home in his embrace of salvation! Watching means to be sure of this mercy, which took place in the Death and Resurrection of Christ; it is placing ourselves in the right relationship with God, which passes into our relationship with our neighbour. Watching is the life program of the Christian who has full trust in the God who saves. Watch! it is a grammatical imperative, which becomes imperative for our life. Jesus asks us not with arrogance, but it is his proposal that becomes imperative for the strength of his love! He gave himself completely to us and in this exhortation, there is all the redemptive power of Death and Resurrection, there is the salvation that He brings us: it is the complete salvation which is for "all"! 

Advent, time of waiting and attention: God draws closer.If you tear the skies apart and come down! (Is 63:19). The prophet opens Advent as a teacher of desire and expectation; Jesus fills the wait with attention. Expectation and attention, the two names of Advent, have the same root: to tend to, to turn the mind and heart towards something, which is missing and which becomes close and grows. The mothers are the ones who know the wait thoroughly, who learn it in the nine months that their wombs leaven with new life. 

Advent is a time of journey: everything gets closer, God to us, we to others, we to ourselves. In which distances are shortened: between heaven and earth, between man and man, and paths begin.

 In today's Gospel, the master goes away and leaves everything in the hands of his servants, to each his own task (Mark 13:34). A constant of many parables where Jesus tells the face of a God who places the world in our hands, who entrusts his creatures to man's faithful intelligence and combative tenderness. But a double risk is pressing on us. The first, says Isaiah, is that of the hard heart: why do you allow our hearts to harden away from you? (Is 63:17). The hardness of heart a disease that Jesus fears the most. 

The second risk is to live a life asleep: that the expected does not come suddenly and find you asleep (Mark 13:36). Daily risk is a dormant life, unable to grasp arrivals and beginnings, dawns and springs; to see existence as an expectant mother, pregnant with light; a distracted and careless life. Live attentively. But to what? Attentive to people, to their words, to their silences, to silent questions, to every offer of tenderness, to the beauty of their being pregnant with lives of God. Beware of the world, our barbarous and magnificent planet, of its smallest and most indispensable creatures: water, air, plants. Beware of what happens in the heart and in the small space of reality in which we move. 

We are clay in your hands. You are the one who shapes us (Isaiah 64: 7). The prophet invites us to perceive the warmth, the vigour, the caress of God's hands that every day, moulds us and gives us form; who never throws us away, if our vase fails, but puts us back on the potter's wheel. With a trust that though I have betrayed him so many times, He turns His merciful gaze on me, raising me each time forward. 

The Christian is "he who awaits the Lord" (JH Newman). You can wait in many ways, with passivity, with boredom (we think of the many "waiting rooms"), with indifference: ("I am tired of Christians who await the coming of their Lord with the same indifference with which one expects the arrival of the bus », I. Silone), or by creating the interior and exterior conditions, for the encounter.

Final Prayer 

O God, our Father and Redeemer, who cares for all your children, hear our prayers. Grant that the course of events in the world be guided in peace, according to your will, and that the Church may know the joy of serving you with serenity and vigilance.