A Different Kind of Advent: Renewal & Restoration - Advent 1

First Sunday of Advent

We begin Advent by lighting a candle to banish the darkness in our lives and in our world and to symbolize our hope in God's continuing presence and love.

SEE+ ( Our reflection begins with a challenge from the gospel for the first Sunday of Advent - to be alert and open our eyes and ears to the movements of the Spirit in our lives and the lives of others. It involves awareness, openness, observation, listening, recognition, being fully awake, and remembering. God is coming to us this Advent. Are we awake and alert for the encounter with God’s love and mercy? ) +

Encounter (Encuentro): The first Sunday of Advent challenges us to prepare for fresh encounters with God. What are the new ways God is breaking into our lives and our world? What are the invitations to "find God in all things" that we have overlooked or failed to notice?

Where do we encounter God? The meaning of the term "encounter" is more than just an unplanned meeting with someone unknown. This term is perhaps better captured in the Spanish word Encuentro. Encuentro means "heart-seeking" or authentic human interaction where there is a deep awareness of God's presence in the other. Encounter is a verb defining a practice that moves us out in compassion toward others and creates what Pope Francis calls "a revolution of tenderness."

Beginning in the daily renewed personal encounter with Jesus and nourished in our prayer and reflection, Encuentro simultaneously moves us out to encounter and love our neighbor. Pope Francis writes: “ I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day.” (EG 3) Pope Francis suggests that we focus on Jesus’ encounter with his people; the encounter with Jesus who serves, helps, humbles himself, and is compassionate to all those in need. This focus on Jesus as servant challenges us to do the same – reach out to encounter others as humble servants, especially those most in need.

Pope Francis often speaks of developing a "culture of encounter." It is the cornerstone of his understanding of the first step in responding to our call to be missionary disciples. A culture of encounter denounces exclusion and isolation of any kind. To exclude someone would be to refuse the invitation to find God's presence in them. To remain isolated would be to ignore the challenge to reach out in love and mercy as Jesus did. Our encounter with Jesus and our ongoing relationship with him moves us out to do what Jesus did - reach out in ministry to those most in need, those most overlooked. We are called into relationship with others, especially the poor and discarded in our world, with authentic, "heart-seeking" encounters. How do we do that? We look to our scriptures and the witness of others.

DISCERN + (We reflect on the readings for this First Sunday of Advent and the witness of others involved in restorative justice ministry as a way to listen to their challenge and discern ways they inspire our lives and ministries. What are the ways the Scriptures and others' experiences and stories help us understand what God is inviting us to do?]

Readings for the First Sunday of Advent: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm

First Reading: Isaiah 63:16b-17; 19b; 64:2-7: "Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!"

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9: "God is faithful, and by God you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord."

Gospel: Mark 13:33-37: "Be watchful! Be alert!"

Wisdom Voices: Examples of Encounter

In the video below, we have two examples of chaplains who were "alert" and "watchful" of the needs of others and were able to respond selflessly in impactful ways. They illustrate a humility and openness to God in others that finds them wholly present to the needs of those they encounter and a willingness to walk with them. They express a certain surprise that just being present and open and willing to be the face of love and mercy to others enables these rich encounters.

Link to video: https://youtu.be/pL5E_Hor4b0

ACT + (Questions for reflection in light of the scriptures and wisdom voices.)

  1. How can we be watchful and stay awake to God's invitations and the new ways God seeks to encounter us in Jesus and others?
  2. Is there someone in need in your life this Advent that you could strive to be the face of love and mercy for?
  3. Are their encounters and relationships that need healing and restoration in your personal life and ministry?
  4. What are some of the fears we have about reaching out to those in need? How do fears lead to excluding others or keeping us isolated from the new beckonings of the Spirit?
  5. What is necessary for me to deepen my relationship with Jesus this Advent so that I can heed his call to follow him in his inclusive and loving ministry?