Listen carefully to the scripture readings from our lectionary for Advent. They’re chosen to help us enter this beautiful season leading to the Birth of Jesus Christ. Don’t miss the readings from the Prophet Isaiah, the spokesman in this first week of Advent for the generations before Jesus who awaited his coming.
Usually the Advent readings open, either on Sunday or Monday, with Isaiah’s message that all nations will stream to God’s mountain and listen for God’s instruction. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Wars are over; the fragmentation destroying humanity comes to an end . It’s a message of universal salvation. Not only are we as individuals called, but all nations, all creatures, all creation is called. ( Isaiah 2:1-5 )
For Isaiah, the mountain of the Lord–the site of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem– is the symbolic place God’s promises are fulfilled. All nations will come to banquet on that mountain (Wednesday), there the poor will triumph (Thursday), the blind will see (Friday); it’s the rock where people dwell in safety, where children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together (Tuesday). The prophet’s poetic imagery in the readings for the 1st week of Advent embracing all creation is strikingly beautiful.
Because we’re celebrating the Feast of St. Andrew, November 30, on Monday this year we won’t hear this important reading at Mass, yet it will be read every Monday at morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours during Advent.
We need to hear Isaiah, especially now, as an antidote for our present fears. We wonder today about the future of our world, so weak and fragmented. We need to listen to God’s promise from Isaiah. We are so concerned with ourselves, our future, our personal security. We share in the promise God makes to all.
The Gospels read in this first week in the 1st week point to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies in Jesus Christ. The Roman centurion humbly approaching Jesus in Capernaum (Monday) represents all the nations that will come to him. Jesus feeds a multitude on the mountain. He gives sight to blind men, he affirms that his kingdom will be built on rock. He praises the childlike, who will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew’s gospel is source of many of our Advent readings; it portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol) and working great miracles there that benefit all who come. He is the new temple, the new Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us.