Preacher’s Sketchbook: First Sunday of Advent

November 23, 2011

Each week, a Dominican member of the Provincial Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass.  The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily.   Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.


Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent (2008)

Advent is the spiritual season of hope par excellence, and in it the whole Church is called to become hope, for herself and for the world. The whole organism of the Mystical Body acquires, so to speak, the “colour” of hope. The whole People of God continue on their journey, attracted by this mystery: that our God is “the God who comes” and calls us to go to meet him. How? In the first place in that universal form of hope and expectation which is prayer, which is eminently expressed in the Psalms, human words in which God himself has placed and continually places the invocation of his coming on the lips and in the hearts of believers.

Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

To prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming is also the exhortation we hear in today’s Gospel: “Watch”, Jesus tells us in Luke’s short parable about the master of the house who goes on a journey but the date of whose return is unknown. Watching means following the Lord, choosing what Christ chose, loving what he loved, conforming one’s own life to his; watching means passing every instant of our time in the sphere of his love without letting oneself be disheartened by the inevitable difficulties and problems of daily life.

Bl. Pope John Paul II, Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

“For you, Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” At the beginning of Advent, the liturgy invites us once again to savour the comforting message of God’s fatherhood. The words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we have just heard take us to the heart of Jesus’ teaching. To the direct request of his disciples:  “Lord, teach us to pray“, he replies by encouraging them to call God by the loving name of “Father“.  Yes, God is our Father! He takes care of us because we are the work of his hands. He is always ready to pardon repentent sinners and to welcome lovingly those who trust in his infinite mercy (cf. Is 64,4).

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“Watch … watch”. This admonition that Jesus addresses to us in the Gospel (cf. Mk 13,33) is the basic message of the Advent season:  to be vigilant while waiting for the Messiah. Let us remain alert, dear brothers and sisters, to be ready to meet the Saviour who comes to reveal to us the face of the heavenly Father.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, Q. 65, A. 5

It is written: “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son.”  Now this fellowship of man with God, which consists in a certain familiar colloquy with Him, is begun here, in this life, by grace, but will be perfected in the future life, by glory; each of which things we hold by faith and hope. Wherefore just as friendship with a person would be impossible, if one disbelieved in, or despaired of, the possibility of their fellowship or familiar colloquy; so too, friendship with God, which is charity, is impossible without faith, so as to believe in this fellowship and colloquy with God, and to hope to attain to this fellowship.

St. Augustine

What, brethren, does He promise believers? “And ye shall know the truth.” Why so? Had they not come to such knowledge when the Lord was speaking? If they had not, how did they believe? They believed, not because they knew, but that they might come to know. For we believe in order that we may know, we do not know in order that we may believe. For what we shall yet know, neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered the heart of man. For what is faith, but believing what you see not? Faith then is to believe what you see not; truth, to see what you have believed, as He Himself saith in a certain place.

St. Gregory, Homily on the Gospels

For the earth is properly the place for the flesh, which was as it were carried away to a far country, when it was placed by our Redeemer in the heavens. “And he gave his servants power over every work,” when, by giving to His faithful ones the grace of the Holy Ghost, He gave them the power of serving every good work.  He has also ordered the porter to watch, because He commanded the order of pastors to have a care over the Church committed to them. Not only, however, those of us who rule over Churches, but all are required to watch the doors of their hearts, lest the evil suggestions of the devil enter into them, and lest our Lord find us sleeping.  Wherefore concluding this parable He adds, “Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning.  May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.”

Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

We find that this mystery of the coming, or Advent, of Jesus is at once simple and threefold. It is simple, for it is the one same Son of God that is coining; it is threefold, because He comes at three different times and in three different ways.  ‘In the first coming,’ says St. Bernard, ‘He comes in the flesh and in weakness; in the second, He comes in spirit and in power; in the third, He comes in glory and in majesty; and the second coming is the means whereby we pass from the first to the third.’ This, then, is the mystery of Advent. Let us now listen to the explanation of this threefold visit of Christ, given to us by Peter of Blois, in his third Sermon de Adventu: ‘There are three comings of our Lord; the first in the flesh, the second in the soul, the third at the judgement. The first was at midnight, according to those words of the Gospel: At midnight there was a cry made, Lo the Bridegroom cometh! But this first coming is long since past, for Christ has been seen on the earth and has conversed among men. We are now in the second coming, provided only we are such as that He may thus come to us; for He has said that if we love him, He will come unto us and will take up His abode with us. So that this second coming is full of uncertainty to us; for who, save the Spirit of God, knows them that are of God? They that are raised out of themselves by the desire of heavenly things, know indeed when He comes; but whence He cometh, or whither He goeth, they know not. As for the third coming, it is most certain that it will be, most uncertain when it will be; for nothing is more sure than death, and nothing less sure than the hour of death. When they shall say, peace and security, says the apostle, then shall sudden destruction come upon them, as the pains upon her that is with child, and they shall not escape. So that the first coming was humble and hidden, the second is mysterious and full of love, the third will be majestic and terrible. In His first coming, Christ was judged by men unjustly; in His second, He renders us just by His grace; in His third, He will judge all things with justice. In His first, a lamb; in His last, a lion; in the one between the two, the tenderest of friends.’

Other Resources

Sunday Preacher’s Resource: First Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Readings for First Sunday of Advent (Year B)

Additional Preaching Resources


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