Bishop James Powers invites us to reinstate the Sign of Peace in the celebration of Mass on the First Sunday of Advent. It is a good opportunity to reflect on what it means and how it needs to be celebrated.
The Rite of Peace follows the Lord’s prayer. The celebrant prays that the peace of Christ will fill our hearts, our families, our Church, our communities, and our world. As a sign of hope, the people extend to those around them a sign of peace, typically by shaking hands. It is not saying a “hello,” we are preparing to receive the Eucharist. It is a sign of reconciliation to one another,and at the same time the Prince of Peace, the Risen Lord, who is present on the Altar: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Bishop James Powers emphasized in our clergy workshop the need to relearn the meaning of the Sign of Peace when we reinstate it. From now on let us consciously think about the meaning of the Sign of Peace at each Mass and do it with reverence. If you are not ready to shake hands, but say it with the same reverence.
First Sunday of Advent we begin a new liturgical year C. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: "The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope. It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us, memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent. Their light represents Christ himself, who is the light of the world. We light the candles gradually throughout Advent because we know that the joy of salvation doesn't come fully into our lives all at once. Our life is a journey, a relationship with Jesus that has to be constantly renewed, just as a new candle is lit each week.
In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was waiting and hoping for an eternal davidic dynasty which brings security and justice to God’s people. The promise of the “just shoot spring up for David” to execute “justice and righteousness.” He prophesied the coming of Messiah, which we read in the book of Isaiah 11:1, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The continuity of the Davidic Dynasty would have interrupted the Babilonian captivity, but the line of David would culminate with the coming of the Messiah, the Eternal King.
We move from the Gospel of Mark (Year B) to the Gospel of Luke (Year C). This week we read from the Gospel of Luke 21:25-28,34-36, Jesus’ eschatological discourse which we read two weeks ago from the Gospel of Mark 13:24-32. The second coming of the Lord is that which takes place at the end of time. Jesus speaks about this in apocalyptical terms in today’s Gospel. This is an invitation to engage. We can’t just be passive bystanders to the words we hear in the Gospel, “People will die in fright in anticipation of what is coming.” The Word of God wakes up and reminds us to ask a question: “What can we do to be ready for the end time?”
In the second reading St. Paul tells us what to do while waiting for the coming of the Lord. May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen.
For us the season of Advent is an invitation for preparing for Christmas, at the same time preparation for the end time. Let us actively engage and walk with the Lord in this Advent Season.