Lectionary Reflection: First Sunday of Advent, Year A

For this Advent Season, I will be reflecting on the readings of each Sunday of Advent and posting them here on Thursdays. It is my hope that one day, I will be able to write and post lectionary-reading reflections here every week – I am not able to commit to this yet. I am taking little steps at a time, this year, with at least the four weeks of Advent and I will see where things take me. I suggest before reading the reflection to read the lectionary readings, all of which are listed before the reflection.

Lectionary Readings: Is 2:1-5 / Ps 122:1-2,3-4,4-5,6-7,8-9 / Rom 13:11-14 / Mt 24:37-44

As the Church walks into a new liturgical year with the First Sunday of Advent, the lectionary provides us with readings that remind us to constantly be alert. This in no way means that we must be awake 24/7 (anyways, I need my sleep!). However, the readings today remind us that we must be spiritually alert. 

The Gospel passage of Matthew this week offers us a flashback to Genesis – the flood which God put on the face of the earth so to purify the it because he “saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth” (Gen 6:5). These people of the time of Noah were concerned about their earthly well-being, living in a culture of self-consumption but not minding about their spiritual well-being. 

In order to stay alert, we must be able to find a balance between caring for our own physical and spiritual needs – that would keep us both physically and spiritually healthy. 

A healthy physical life requires us to eat well, exercise well and sleep well. Yet, how do we maintain a healthy spiritual life? The first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah provides us with some means. First are we willing to seek God, go to his “mountain”, so to learn from God his ways, and from there walk along the path of righteousness? Yes, that sounds so far off, but God sent his Son to us so to “teach us his ways, and that we may walk in his paths.” (Isaiah 2:3) The end of the first reading prompts us, “Let us walk in the light of the Lord.” That is what St. Paul re-emphasizes in the New Testament, through the second reading in his letter to the Romans, “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.” (Rom 13:12b) That is how we are to be alert – by staying on the path of light, by:

(1) Spiritually eating well by the reception of the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and by reading and reflecting on the Word of God in the Bible and spiritual writings. 

(2) Spiritually exercising well by living the virtues, especially the virtue of charity, rather than vices. Living a virtuous life takes time. Virtues do not come in an instant. Rather, they are habitual. They take constant practice and refinement. 

(3) Getting spiritual rest and assurance – that may sound paradoxical as we are speaking about being spiritually alert, but here, I am referring to the act of being constantly aware of God’s presence in our lives and in the lives of others, in daily life, in work as in our sleep. That can be achieved through a life of prayer. It is only by placing prayer in the centre of our lives do we find moments of spiritual rest and assurance.

St. Dominic Savio, a student of St. John Bosco, seemed to embrace these concepts well. Once, while playing ball, someone asked him, “Dominic, what would you do if you knew God was going to call you?” Dominic replied, “I would continue playing ball.” Why would Dominic say that? Because Dominic was spiritually alert at all times, he was prepared for the moment God called him.

Let us like St. Dominic Savio, be spiritual alert at all times, not fearing when God would call us because if we are walking along the path of light, living spiritually healthy, there is nothing to fear. That can be achieved by spiritually eating, exercise and resting well, just as we need to eat well, physical exercise and sleep to maintain a physical healthy lifestyle.

About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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