Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A, 22nd December 2019

‘His name will be Emmanuel, A name which means God-is-with-us’

Our Advent time of waiting is almost ended and the excitement of Christmas celebrations begins, anticipated early by many around us.  But as Christians, we wait in quiet hope for the coming of our Saviour whose birth is our reason to celebrate.

The First Reading speaks of this hope, voiced many years before Jesus is born by the prophet Isaiah; he speaks of one who will come to be Emmanuel, the God who is with us.

St Paul reminds us that the birth of Jesus is only the beginning; we will see his death and the holiness and power of his resurrection (Second Reading).  This is our hope and the meaning of our faith.

The Psalm calls the disciple to holiness.  The values of Jesus will be shown in the way we live our lives in purity of heart: “Let the Lord enter, he is the king of glory!”

The Gospel relates the story of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus.  Both are called, in different ways, to a very great trust, and to have faith in God’s promises.

As Advent draws to a close, we pray for their gift of trusting faith.

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Third Sunday of Advent, Year A, 15th December 2019

Rejoice in the Lord always; indeed the Lord is near!

‘Rejoice!’  The word that begins the First Reading resounds in today’s liturgy.  Isaiah wants to show us that it is in the wilderness –  the place of loneliness and desolation, and every human need – where rejoicing is to be found.  It is exactly here, in the wastelands (the home of John the Baptist), where God’s promise is to be discovered.

And what is God’s promise?  That he will save us (First Reading, Psalm and Second Reading) and therefore we must not lose heart.  Even though we may feel we are stuck in the wild places, God is at work here.

The Gospel shows salvation explained and opened out: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and lepers are healed.  Christ’s actions fulfil the words of the prophet Isaiah and, today, give us hope to face the difficulties of the world and of our day-to-day lives.

On this Gaudete (‘Rejoice’) Sunday, let’s give thanks for all that is good, and pray that we might also trust in the joyful hope of that which awaits us.

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2020 is the tenth anniversary of Verbum Domini – Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on ‘The Word of the Lord’ and the 1,600th anniversary of St Jerome’s death. These dates have inspired the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to dedicate 2020 as a year of focus on the Bible and ‘The God Who Speaks’, starting on the First Sunday in Advent, 2019. We will be marking this initiative each week with an additional sheet, offering a short quotation from Scripture, together with a prayer.

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First Sunday of Advent, Year A, 1st December 2019

Stay awake! … Let us walk in the light of the Lord

At the start of the Church’s year, we enter the wondrous season of Advent with an exhortation to ‘stay awake’.  We begin a time of preparation and anticipation as we look forward to welcoming the Christ Child into the world at Christmas. Christ calls each of us today to be awake to his presence in every moment, so that we may stand ready to greet him when he comes again in glory.

In the Gospel, Jesus encourages his followers to live within this state of preparation and anticipation, so that they may be ready to welcome the Son of Man when he comes.

In the First Reading, Isaiah foretells of the Kingdom of God – the kingdom that we are called to proclaim and live out in our own lives. Using the imagery of a great mountain, he describes the presence and authority of God. People from every nation will be drawn to the Lord, and peace will reign across the world.

The Psalm is a pilgrim’s song that would have been sung on the lips of those entering Jerusalem. This becomes our own pilgrim song as we enter Advent.

In the Second Reading, Paul calls us to wake up to our true reality.
We are children of light, and he encourages us to let go of everything that draws our attention away from Christ.

Throughout Advent, let us hold each other in prayer. May Christ’s peace be upon us all and his light shine within our hearts, so that we too may stand ready to greet him in all whom we meet.

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2020 is the tenth anniversary of Verbum Domini – Pope Benedict XVI’s Apostolic Exhortation on ‘The Word of the Lord’ and the 1,600th anniversary of St Jerome’s death. These dates have inspired the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to dedicate 2020 as a year of focus on the Bible and ‘The God Who Speaks’, starting on the First Sunday in Advent, 2019. We will be marking this initiative each week with an additional sheet, offering a short quotation from Scripture, together with a prayer.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, 24th December 2017

The Lord is always faithful to his promises

This year, these readings come to us on the very Eve of Christmas. Today we celebrate the secret hidden for all ages, revealed in the birth of the Christ, the son of Mary (Second Reading).

The Gospel retells that wonderful account of the angel coming to Mary with good news. It would be through her that the ‘impossible’ plan of God would unfold. The virgin would conceive and give birth to the Son of God and successor to King David.

Whereas David wanted to build a house (temple) for the Lord (First Reading), the Lord promises to build a House (dynasty) for David. This reading reminds us that our plans are often not God’s plans … and the heart of God’s own plan, demonstrated also in the Psalm, is His faithful love, expressed in His covenant with us.

As we come nearer to celebrating this wonderful birth, let us pray for ever-greater awareness of the presence of the Just One, coming like the dew upon us, so that the earth of our very lives (as we hear in the Entrance Antiphon) might be opened to His unimaginable love.

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Second Sunday of Advent, Year B, 10th December 2017

Prepare a way for the Lord!

The readings this week invite us to prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus into our lives and our hearts, both at Christmas and every day.

The First Reading from Isaiah speaks of the God who wants to console his people; who comes to change the landscape of our lives with power and tenderness.

God speaks in a voice of peace, offering mercy, faithfulness and justice. Wherever God is present, there will be peace for all (Psalm).

St. Peter (Second Reading) reminds us that God’s time is not our own. While patiently waiting and longing for God to bring to completion all that he promises us, we are called to try to live holy lives, to live at peace with ourselves and others.

The coming of Jesus is announced by a messenger, John the Baptist, who prepares the way for the Lord as Isaiah foretold. His witness to the truth changes the lives of those who hear what he has to say (Gospel).

In this time of Advent, we ask the Lord to free us from all that would hinder our following him more closely, so that we too might be messengers of the Good News for others.

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Second Sunday of Advent, Year B, 10th December 2017

Prepare a way for the Lord!

The readings this week invite us to prepare for the coming of the Lord Jesus into our lives and our hearts, both at Christmas and every day.

The First Reading from Isaiah speaks of the God who wants to console his people; who comes to change the landscape of our lives with power and tenderness.

God speaks in a voice of peace, offering mercy, faithfulness and justice. Wherever God is present, there will be peace for all (Psalm).

St. Peter (Second Reading) reminds us that God’s time is not our own. While patiently waiting and longing for God to bring to completion all that he promises us, we are called to try to live holy lives, to live at peace with ourselves and others.

The coming of Jesus is announced by a messenger, John the Baptist, who prepares the way for the Lord as Isaiah foretold. His witness to the truth changes the lives of those who hear what he has to say (Gospel).

In this time of Advent, we ask the Lord to free us from all that would hinder our following him more closely, so that we too might be messengers of the Good News for others.

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2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A, 4th December 2016

O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.  [Ent. Ant. (Is 30:19,30)]

Today’s Gospel resounds with that cry from the Baptist, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’.   We are given an image of the coming Lord as one who clears the threshing floor – one who changes the pattern of things.

He wishes to transform in us that which hinders us from receiving him: so we are invited to move from hopelessness to justice (Psalm), and from wretchedness to integrity (First Reading).  He is the one who, by being our friend, helps us to be faithful (Second Reading).

On this Second Sunday of Advent, we are called to share in the work of the Lord, who desires to clear any obstacles in our lives that might be blocking his life in us.  In this way may the ‘glory of the Lord’s voice be heard in the joy of our hearts’.

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