Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 27, 2016 — “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” — First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 1

Reading 1 IS 2:1-5

This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz,
saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
In days to come,
the mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it;
many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.
O house of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Responsorial Psalm PS 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
I rejoiced because they said to me,
“We will go up to the house of the LORD.”
And now we have set foot
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Jerusalem, built as a city
with compact unity.
To it the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
According to the decree for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the LORD.
In it are set up judgment seats,
seats for the house of David.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you prosper!
May peace be within your walls,
prosperity in your buildings.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Because of my brothers and friends
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
Because of the house of the LORD, our God,
I will pray for your good.
R. Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Reading 2 ROM 13:11-14

Brothers and sisters:
You know the time;
it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.
For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;
the night is advanced, the day is at hand.
Let us then throw off the works of darkness
and put on the armor of light;
let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,
not in orgies and drunkenness,
not in promiscuity and lust,
not in rivalry and jealousy.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ,
and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.

Alleluia CF. PS 85:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Show us Lord, your love;
and grant us your salvation.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house
had known the hour of night when the thief was coming,
he would have stayed awake
and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

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From The Abbot in the Desert
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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Benedictine monastic community, near Abiquiu, New Mexico
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My sisters and brothers,

“Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”  —  This can be our theme all through Advent:  to walk in the light of the Lord.  Far too often we walk only by our own light and that is why we stumble and fall. The Prohet Isaiah sees this incredible vision that he describes to us today in the first reading:  All nations come streaming to God!  More than that, Isaiah tells us:  They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

As we look at our world today, none of this seems to be happening.  Instead there seems always to be more warfare and more threats of one nation against another.  Yet in this time of Advent, we can all set our hearts before the Lord, asking for this vision of Isiah to come true.

The second reading today is from the Letter to the Romans.  This time it is not a vision, but an invitation:  “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”  This letter sets this invitation once more in the process of moving from the darkness of our sins into the light of God’s love.  We should not think of the desires of the flesh as only sexual desires, but at any desire that we have that moves us away from loving God and serving all of the people who come into our lives.  These people are all God’s people and we can only prove our love for God by loving His people, not matter how difficult that is at times.

The Gospel of Matthew today tells us that the end of our lives will come when we do not expect it.  The end of the world will come when we are not waiting for it.  The only solution is to be always watchful and to know that my life can end right this instant and the world could also end.  When we take for granted that we will on living and put no attention to the fact that we could die, then we often lose the focus of our lives and begin to live as if there were no God at all.

Today, many people no longer believe.  Today even many Christians no longer believe that Jesus is truly God.  Instead Jesus has become just a “good teacher” and is nothing more.  In this time of Advent this year, we can seek to deepen or faith in the living God, our faith in Jesus as true God and true and, and our faith in the Catholic Church as the living presence of God in our world.

Advent is waiting for the Lord.  Advent is not empty waiting.  Rather Advent is a time to renew our faith in this God who loves us so much that He sends us His Son in our humanity so that we can share in God’s divinity.  God sends us His Spirit to deepen our faith in these great mysteries—but this can only happen when our hearts are open to the Lord!

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

Related:

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
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27 NOVEMBER 2016, 1st Sunday of Advent
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THE CALL TO VIGILANCE

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ IS 2:1-5; PS 121:1-2,4-5,6-9; ROM 13:11-14; MT 24:37-44  ]

There is so much division and tension in the world today.  In spite of mass communication, internet and globalization, advanced technology and science, better living conditions, facilities and luxuries compared to the time of our forefathers, this world is getting more and more dangerous to live in.  Today, we live in fear not knowing how safe we are.  With terrorist activities rampant in the world, we do not know when we will be attacked as well.  That is why the government is asking us to be alert to the possibility of terrorist attacks which can come from anywhere and any person when we least expect it.  The government is working not just on prevention, but preparing us for the aftermath of a terrorist attack, for the truth is that there is no full proof prevention. Be alert, is the message of the government.

Why is the world getting more unsafe?  This is because our peoples are divided.  We see the world getting more and more polarized.  We have witnessed this situation in the West.  The recent Brexit and US election have much to teach us about the cultural and moral divide among peoples.  The liberals who have been pushing their agenda on the redefinition of the family, marriage and other values are seeing a push-back from the conservatives of society who until then had been silent.   Indeed, because of relativism, there is no more basis to hold our peoples united in love and in truth.

We no longer know what is truth today, what is right or wrong.  Although we have acquired more knowledge and information, we have less clarity and wisdom.  Many of us do not know what to make of all the knowledge we have acquired because the views held are so diverse and convincing that the ordinary person is paralyzed by the varied opinions.  This is partly the reason for the flowering of the ideology of relativism.  Faced with so many views and all seem appealing, one is called to choose whatever version of the ‘truth’ one is attracted to.  It is no longer based on what is right or wrong, whether they are objective or not but whether one is inclined to it, since there is no absolute truth. 

Indeed, our real challenge today is how do we sift out all the knowledge we have acquired and discern and distinguish what is true and what is masqueraded as truth?  How we make use of this knowledge determines our happiness.  Without determining what is true, many of our young people are misled into adopting the wrong values in life.  We cannot blame them because no one is enlightening them or helping them to discern what is true and false.  This explains why some allow themselves to be radicalized by terrorist ideologies.  When knowledge falls into the wrong hands, such knowledge can be used in a destructive manner.

Without maturity, too much knowledge can confuse the young person.   This is true especially in the area of sex education.  Our young people are exposed to sex and pornography at a very tender age.  They are encouraged to indulge in the manipulation of their body.   The physical aspect of sex is being promoted as the objective in a relationship.  The truth is that the physical dimension of the relationship, whilst important, occupies a very little part of the entire relationship, which is about communication, love, sharing, caring, listening and rendering each other support.  These more important aspects of the relationship are not underscored.  The implications of adultery, infidelity in a relationship and how it impacts on their personal life, dignity, confidence, social life and even our work are never talked about.   We are not warned of the consequences for our family and children because of pornography, infidelity and divorce.

Similarly, when technology and science advance without a corresponding advancement in human development, it can be destructive to humanity.   It is like a child who has been given the key to a car to drive.  Science and technology without the guidance of morality will bring about the dehumanization of the human race.  We are already seeing the signs when the dignity of the human person is not respected by science.  Destruction of human embryos, manipulation of the genes of the human person, cloning and euthanasia are promoted without considering the implications for the future of humanity besides the dignity of the human person.  On the international front, the rise of armament and chemical weapons, the use of nuclear weapons are threats to the existence and peaceful co-existence of humanity.  The tragedy is that those who are advancing the cause of science and technology are not seeing beyond what they do, particularly the social and moral implications for the future of humanity.

The world is living in darkness, as St Paul mentioned in the second reading. They do things under cover in the dark, indulging in quarreling, fighting, drinking and licentiousness.  Hence, the call to vigilance in today’s scripture readings is the theme of our celebration.  “Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.”  As we enter into the First Sunday of Advent, we are called to prepare for the Coming of the Lord.  Although, the gospel speaks of Christ coming at the end of time, Christ’s coming is happening every day.

We need to be watchful at all times, like the householder.  Unless we are alert and vigilant, the negative trends of society today can become so overwhelming that they dominate and control our peoples.  Indeed, if we are not watchful of how the selfish, self-centered and materialistic values are being promoted by society, as expressed in the attempts to reformulate the definition of marriage and family, and the use of science and technology, we will find ourselves overwhelmed by the values of the world.  When that time comes, we will be too helpless even to safeguard our family and children and their future.

So we cannot afford to be indifferent.   We cannot ignore the signals and the current trends of society as if they have nothing to do with us.  Society is the product of man and man is the product of society.  How we want our society to be organized and formed, depends on every individual playing his or her part in informing the world about the kind of values we subscribe to and want to promote.  Either we leave our future in the hands of ignorant people who lead our society to division, degeneration and decadence, or we seek to change the course of society by being alert, proactive and contribute to steering the moral values of our society. We must be discerning and watchful for the sake of the future of our children and humanity.

How, then, can we be vigilant?  We must take our compass from the Lord not from the world.  This is what Isaiah prophesied.  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.”   So long as we become the norm and the judge of what is right or wrong, we can never agree among ourselves.  This is the outcome of relativism because it rejects God as the absolute truth.   Truth can only be found in God alone.  Only God can teach us what is true.  What the world, and even our Catholics, is doing is to find the answers to the truth on the internet and what others say or think, rather than what God is saying in the scriptures.  Our reference point and moral compass cannot be the values and reasoning of the world but from God alone.

If we found our values in God, then we will be united in truth and love.  If the world is divided it is because truth is found in human subjectivity.  Since none of us can agree to what is true, we remain divided.  The unity and peace of the world remains superficial and fragile because it is not founded on truth but on tolerance and false compromises.   Only truth can unite us.

The fullness of truth and defence against errors is found in Jesus Christ.  In Him alone, do we find the way to life!  Hence, St Paul urges us, “Let your armour be the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Indeed, we are to put on the Lord in our battle against the evil forces and negative trends in society.  Let Jesus be our armour and safeguard against the darkness of society.  We need to strengthen our faith in the Lord and understand the moral teachings of the gospel and of the Church.  Without a firm foundation in the Word of God and the teachings of the Church and a strong relationship with Christ, we cannot shield ourselves from the onslaught of the world.

Indeed, this is the cry of the prophet, “O House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  How can we be sure that we are walking in the light of truth and love?  When we are no longer ashamed of what we normally do in the dark.  Evil deeds are always done under cover because they are shameful deeds.  When we stop rationalizing and follow the voice of our conscience, we know we are walking in the truth.  Truth needs no justification or defence.  Truth speaks for itself.  The effects of our values manifest truth.  We know whether the gospel is true or not by analyzing the effects of the values of society on the integrity of the individual, happiness and the strength of our family, unity of our society and the world.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh

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2 Responses to “Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 27, 2016 — “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” — First Sunday of Advent”

  1. Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 27, 2016 — “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” — Peace and Freedom | You, Me & The Universe Says:

    […] via Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, November 27, 2016 — “Throw off the works of darkness and put o… […]

  2. daveyone1 Says:

    Reblogged this on World Peace Forum.

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