A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy
BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 1)
First Sunday of Advent, Year A – November 28, 2004
“Stay Awake … Be Prepared!”
Is 2:1-5 // Rom 13:11-14 // Mt 24:37-44
I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS
I had filed my application for a religious visa at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines and was scheduled for an interview on September 3, 2002. At 4:30 A.M. I was on my way to Manila from our convent in Antipolo City. At 6:30 A.M. I was at the gate of the Embassy patiently waiting for what I thought was an 8:30 A.M. interview. I finally realized that I belonged to a group of about 50 applicants whose papers began to be processed at 8:30 A.M. There were several groups ahead of us and other groups waiting behind us. At 10:00 A.M. we were ushered into a big room where American consuls were interviewing the applicants. It was a remarkable period of waiting for all of us. We had to stay awake, alert and ready to be called at any time. I could not afford to doze off or take a break for fear that I would miss my opportunity for the interview. At 2:30 P.M. my name was called. After a three-minute interview my visa was approved. I went home happy and relieved. My patient waiting and vigilant expectation paid off.
Today we enter into the season of Advent and begin a new liturgical year, a “sacrament” or sacred sign of the presence of Christ in time. The liturgical period of Advent is a time of waiting and interior preparation for our meeting with the Lord who came in the flesh, continues to come in our daily life, and will come definitively in glory at the end time to restore all things in himself. The Gospel passage that is proclaimed this Sunday (Mt 24:37-44) is at the heart of the season of Advent. It challenges us to live this period of messianic waiting with renewed watchfulness. The Gospel exhorts the community of disciples to vigilance.
The biblical scholar, Adrian Leske gives a biblical framework for a deeper understanding of this Sunday’s Gospel reading. He explains: “Jesus has been deliberately vague in answering the questions of the disciples (Mt 24:3: “Tell us, when is this going to happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?”), and his use of apocalyptic symbolism has lifted the questions out of human time into God’s time. This has left the disciples with a feeling of impending crisis and uncertainty as to when things will happen. All this has been leading up to Jesus’ instruction on how they are to live until the closing of the age. The coming of the Son of Man as judge at that time now becomes the focus of instruction.”
In today’s Gospel pericope, Jesus illustrates his eschatological message with three brief stories: the story of Noah and the flood (Mt 24:37-40a), the parable of two workers in the field and two women grinding at the mill (Mt 24: 40b-41), and the parable of the thief in the night (Mt 24:42-44). These parables are meant to underline the need to live righteously in vigilant expectation of the Lord’s judgment. They also indicate the unpredictable and mysterious character of the Lord’s coming as judge. Adrian Leske elucidates: “The flood at the time of Noah (Gen 6-8) was always a picture of judgment on the faithless and deliverance for the faithful. So the disciples, leaving the time of judgment in God’s hands, live righteously in constant readiness for the coming of the Son of Man. At the end of the age there will be a sudden and final separation of the righteous from the unrighteous, illustrated with two graphic pictures. Those taken represent the gathering of the elect (Mt 24:31: “And the Son of Man will send his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his chosen from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”). The example of a thief breaking into a house (literally, “digging through” the mud walls) emphasizes that one never knows when the parousia will happen, so constant readiness is essential.” Indeed, Jesus’ message tells us that, rather than knowing the exact time, it is more important that we be always vigilant and prepared.
Our Advent preparation for the Lord’s coming challenges us to live our lives in the here and now with purpose, meaning, impetus, force and dignity. It means being a creative and energetic part of the glorious kingdom that Jesus inaugurated and actualized by his paschal mystery. The authors of the Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, vol. 1 assert: “Jesus affirmed that the kingdom is already present, in his person, while proclaiming forcefully that it is still to come. Everything has been fulfilled in the person of Jesus. His life, death, and resurrection – decisive historical events – fulfill the Scriptures and their promises, and satisfy the longing of all the prophets since Moses (Lk 24:27). But not everything is yet fully manifested. Faith in the victorious redemption wrought by Christ also means that we look forward with a renewed hope to that glorious epiphany of the Lord’s kingship upon his return. In the face of these certainties, questions of when and how are meaningless … What counts is the manner in which we live our lives today, for it is how we live that determines how we hope.”
The Christian disciples in today’s world are therefore marked by renewed vigilance in response to the Advent challenge offered by Jesus, the Divine Master: “Stay awake … Be prepared!” (Lk 24:42, 44). Like the provident householder wisely equipped to fight off the onslaught of the thief in the night, the followers of Christ are watchful and ready to receive the Lord’s daily visitation and welcome him at his glorious return in the end time. Creative and forceful vigilance is a vital characteristic of Christian discipleship. The authors of the Days of the Lord: The Liturgical Year, vol. 1 conclude: “This vigilance is not a vague disposition of the spirit or soul. It is, rather, an active force, a dynamic prompting that makes one act, always and everywhere, with full reason. It is a question, really of faithfully doing one’s work, of assuming our daily responsibilities with the conviction that we will not be surprised by the unforeseen arrival of the Lord.”
II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART
A. Are we intent on living righteously in constant readiness for the coming of the Son of Man? What does our renewed vigilance for the Lord’s coming consist in?
B. How do we make use of the grace of the Advent season given us by the Lord? Are we creatively engaged in giving witness that Christ has come and is with us forever through the Church and the sacraments, and will come again gloriously at the end time to restore all things in his kingdom?
C. Do we pray the beautiful Advent invocation: “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” with joyful hope? Are we thankful to the Lord for the gift of the new liturgical year?
III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD
(Text by D. Rimaud)
Leader: God is at work in this age; these times are the last.
God is at work in this age; his Day will arise!
Fear not, the Day will come, the night is at its end,
and the glory of the Lord will fill the universe
more than the water covers the sea!
What is the task of those people that God comes to assemble,
other than to build the kingdom of the Prince of Peace?
How can we hasten this long-awaited day,
when the glory of the Lord will fill the universe,
more than the water covers the sea?
Assembly: That we may not be lost on this Day, which comes like a thief;
let us not sleep in darkness;
let us keep watch in the Lord.
As the light of the rising Sun even till its setting,
he will come in glory on the clouds, the Lord, the God of love.
May our pathways be lit with the sign of Jesus!
He alone can save our earth, where love is no longer among us.
We must defend the down-trodden, free the prisoner,
and the glory of the Lord will fill the universe
more than the water covers the sea.
God is love for his people; he loves to forgive.
God is love for his people; he desires their liberty.
Fear not, the Day will come; the night is at its end.
Let us rend our hearts and return to the Lord.
For he is the God who will return.
IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD
The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.
“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Mt 24:44).
V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION
A. ACTION PLAN: As part of renewed vigilance for the coming of the Lord Jesus in our lives, let us commit ourselves especially during this Advent season to the devout practice of LECTIO DIVINA, the prayerful reading of the Word of God, and/or the Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM website for the YEAR OF THE EUCHARIST PASTORAL TOOL: Eucharistic Adoration through the Liturgical Year (Year A).
B. ACTION PLAN: Respond with fraternal solicitude to alleviate some of the forms of poverty and injustice in our local and world community, e.g. the tragedy of hunger, the plight of the homeless, the loneliness of the elderly, the terror of war and ecological destruction, etc.
Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang PDDM
PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI
SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER
60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323