Turn down the volume and listen to Advent readings

By: By Father Dominic Garramone, OSB

First Sunday of Advent, Nov. 28

Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122:1-2,3-4,4-5,6-7,8-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

The prophet Isaiah is a steadfast companion in Advent. The prophet introduces the season in the first reading by describing the pilgrimage by which we journey to Christmas. He identifies three motivations for undertaking the Advent journey: our need for instruction, our desire for greater unity and peace, and our longing for a light to guide us.

Isaiah depicts his pilgrims as going to Jerusalem, “to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk his paths.” Clearly this instruction is not merely intellectual but also moral, involving not only right thinking but also upright behavior. Much as we do in Lent, in Advent we strive for greater understanding as well as greater fidelity to Gospel living.

The prophet wrote at a time when the struggle between Assyria, Egypt and the rising power of Babylon made the Middle East as volatile as it is today. Isaiah’s prowess as a poet is demonstrated by how his words have lasted down to our own day; for example, “They shall turn their swords into ploughshares” is dramatically illustrated in a statue outside the United Nations. The desire for peace expressed by Isaiah is echoed by the responsorial psalm: “May peace reign in your walls, in your palaces, peace.”

The reading ends with a call to the people that is as much a plea as an invitation: “O House of Jacob, come! Let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

In the second reading Paul also urges his listeners to throw off the works of darkness and put on the light of the Gospel as armor against the temptations of a Roman society that lived for pleasure and power, so similar to our own. This image of light overcoming darkness is so prominent in Scripture that writers in the early church referred to baptism as “illumination.”

In our own day there is still much darkness to be overcome: war and violence, materialism, the culture of death, and the blindness of a society that seems ignorant of God and the values of the Gospel. The ads on television tell us to spend the season before Christmas in overindulgence and conspicuous consumption. Let’s turn down the volume and listen to these Advent readings urging us to prepare for the Lord’s coming, “For our salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

FATHER DOMINIC Garramone, OSB, is a monk of St. Bede Abbey in Peru, where he serves as subprior and choirmaster. He also heads the religion department and serves as drama director at St. Bede Academy. Contact him at FRDOM@st-bede.com.

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