Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, November 27, 2022. The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection November 27 2022. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photo: Guilhem Vellut from Paris, France, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons File: Noah Giving Thanks (3434807981).jpg – Wikimedia Commons
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.”
The Catholic Church begins a new church year (Year A) with the first Sunday of Advent. Throughout this year the gospel readings will be selected from Matthew’s gospel. Scripture scholars believe that Matthew’s gospel was composed between 80AD and 85AD, most likely in the province of Syria. The population of the area was a mixture of Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles. The Christian community would have originally been largely Jewish Christian, and then gradually transitioned into a gentile-dominated community.
Matthew’s community was dealing with disappointment and hardship. Jesus’ death and resurrection had taken place almost fifty years earlier. The Romans had destroyed the temple in Jerusalem about ten years earlier. Some of them had experienced Jesus as he lived, preached, healed, told parables, and breathed new life into their traditional understanding of their relations with Yahweh. They also would have experienced over time that many of those same earlier followers of the living Jesus were now dead. Yet the Son of Man had not returned as they had hoped. There were people in the community and perhaps in their families who warned them that they were being led astray. The Christian community was dealing with real questions and tensions. Matthew shapes his gospel to help the community address these issues.
The opening line of the gospel text for this Sunday finds Jesus addressing the disciples about the future coming of the Son of Man. Within the Jewish tradition it was believed that there would be a time when all of God’s promises would be fulfilled. That moment was in God’s control; nothing they could do would bring it about or prevent it from happening. They did believe that God would send someone into the world to act in God’s name at the appropriate time. How and when this would happen was unclear. Different schools of thought developed. Some thought that a descendant of David would establish the reign of God. Others thought that one of the priests would help mold them into a holy people. Still others believed God would act in a more mysterious way; a man would come down to earth from the clouds to inaugurate God’s reign.
In the gospel, Jesus is exhorting his followers, “Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” People at the time of Noah were unaware of the danger that loomed. Therefore, they had no way to prepare, and they continued to live their ordinary lives. Jesus says it will be the same when the Son of Man appears; people will be unaware and fully engaged in normal life. He uses examples of both men and women to illustrate his point. The inclusion of a female example would not be typical, thus making the point that Jesus’ exhortation is meant to be all-inclusive. The final example is that of a household where everyone is found asleep when the thief comes. Because everyone will be engaged in their daily rituals when the Son of Man appears, Jesus is exhorting his disciples to maintain a stance of vigilance in their daily life.
- What have been your experiences of having to wait, not just waiting in line or for the semester to come to an end, but the waiting that comes from a deeper need?
- Do you know people who once were people of faith, but at some point stopped believing, hoping, and waiting? Do you have a sense of why?
- Have you ever been ridiculed for holding fast to your faith, and your values?
- Have you ever been tempted to give up your faith, stop actively believing, or stop actively hoping?
- How have both or either of those experiences in the previous two questions shaped who you are today?
- The unfolding of the events of the early church forced the Christian community to rethink their expectations of God. Are there events in your life, in the church, or in the world that have caused you to rethink your own understanding and expectations of God?
- Do you take time to notice the presence of God in your daily life, so that the rest of your daily life does not overshadow God’s presence in your daily life?
- This gospel will be proclaimed all around the world. How connected do you feel to those who live with deep longing for deliverance that will come with the Son of Man?
- Can you talk with God now about how you are feeling about God’s presence in your life and in the world? Maybe you also might talk to God about how you could use this Advent season to prepare for the celebration of Christmas?