Branching Out Blog

"Hear the Word!" by Bill Ayres: First Sunday of Advent

Posted by Bill Ayres on Dec 2, 2023 6:00:00 AM


A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah

(Chapter 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7)

It has finally happened. The Jewish people have been freed from the long Babylonian Exile in the sixth century B.C., and they can go home to Israel. But the Temple in Jerusalem has been destroyed, and their land has been devastated. Worse! The people themselves are in terrible shape. They interpret the ravaging of their city and their long captivity as punishment their sins, particularly for idolatry.

“Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! Behold, you are angry and we are sinful; all of us have become as unclean people, all our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind. There is none who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to cling to you; you have hidden your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt.”

Yet, all is not lost. “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever…. Return for the sake of your servants the tribes of your heritage.” It was the faith of so many of the Israelites that helped them through their painful captivity.

We should not interpret misfortune or illness as punishment from God, but we might, perhaps should, feel as though we are in exile if we neglect to give God the praise and gratitude that is due to him and if we do not live by his commandments. That feeling of exile is self-imposed, but, like the Israelites of long ago, we can return home. And for us, going home doesn’t require a long journey, only penance and a renewed commitment to the God who loves us.

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19)
“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” Where do you see God’s face? In your loved ones! In those that you have not been able to see but remain in your heart and perhaps on the telephone? In the 54 million hungry people right here in America, 18 million of whom are children? In the hundreds of millions of poor and hungry people in our world, including the many millions of those struggling just to survive? We can’t help them all, but we can reach out to some and keep all in our hearts and prayers.

A reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians

(Chapter 1:3-9)

“Brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ…. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Do you believe that Jesus “will keep you firm to the end”? We do live in shaky times. Have you felt shaken by what is going on in your life or in our world? Have you tried to find time each day to pray to Jesus for that firmness that seems to be hard to come by these days? What have you been especially thankful?

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…. What I say to you, I say to all. Watch!’” This is a major theme in Mark’s Gospel—Watch!

The early Christians were often focused on the end time when Christ would come again. We do not think in those terms today, but we do need to watch, to watch what is going on around us, in our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our world. How is Jesus present in each of these aspects of our lives, and how is he calling us to bring love and kindness and mercy and justice to all?


Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash.

Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.

 Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.



Topics: Bill Ayres, Christ the King, Jesus Christ the King

Bill Ayres

Written by Bill Ayres

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