The Mass Readings for 2017
(as in the Irish Liturgical Calendar, edited by Patrick Jones)

07 December, 2017
Thursday of Week 1 of Advent

Saint Ambrose, bishop and doctor of the church

1st Reading: Isaiah 26:1-6

A hymn of confidence. Open the gates, so that the righteous may enter in

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; he sets up victory like walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, so that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in. Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace — in peace because they trust in you.

Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height; the lofty city he lays low. He lays it low to the ground, casts it to the dust. The foot tramples it, the feet of the poor, the steps of the needy.

Gospel: Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Follow Jesus’ teaching, like a wise man who built his house on rock.

"Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. . .

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell — and great was its fall!"

bible

Who shall build up our church?

In Isaiah God builds the city, setting up its walls and ramparts to protect it; in the Gospel we build the house solidly, setting it on rock. While Isaiah summons into the new city those who trust in the Lord, Jesus promises salvation to the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. The prophetic text emphasises faith while the Gospel stresses action! There is a line in the passage from Isaiah to harmonise these divergent views: "The Lord is an eternal rock."

Insistence upon trust in the Lord is a major theme throughout the prophecy of Isaiah. The classic statement occurs in chapter seven: Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm! (Is. 7:14) It speaks from a time of crisis when Ahaz, King of Jerusalem, had no alternative but to trust in God. He was unable to muster an army and repel an invasion from the northern kingdom of Israel. It was immoral to appeal to Assyria for help and so become a vassal of this foreign power, losing their independence and gaining nothing in the long run. We, too, are faced with crises, at least at crucial moments of our lives, when either choice seems somewhat immoral. When we can see no good option or moral alternative, Isaiah encourages us: "Be watchful and be tranquil; do not fear and do not let your courage fail." Today he says: Trust in the Lord forever! For the Lord is an eternal rock. The Lord will surround us who have faith as he does the holy city with "walls and ramparts." Indeed the Lord himself is the rock which sustains us. He is the Holy One, enshrined within us. If there is a clash of images here, the text clearly means that the Lord is behind and before us, around about us and within us, supporting us from beneath, drawing us upward from above.

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We can identify with the weather image that Jesus uses in today’s gospel, "Rains came down, floods rose, gales blew." It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Apart from actual physical storms, we can all be struck by storms of a different kind no matter what part of the world we are in. The church has been through quite a storm in recent weeks, and the storm is still howling. As individuals, we can find ourselves battling against the elements of life, as we struggle in one shape or form, for one reason or another. Jesus declares in our gospel reading today that difficult times will indeed come for all of us. The real issue is the extent to which we are equipped to deal with them. When the storms come will we find ourselves at the mercy of the storm, tossed about helplessly, or will we be able to withstand the storm and move through and beyond it? Jesus states in our gospel reading that he can be our rock when the storm comes. If we listen to his words and try to act on those words we will remain upright and standing when the storm breaks around us. Jesus brings us back to basics, the doing of God’s will as Jesus has revealed it for us. If we keep on returning to that focal point then the Lord will see to it that we endure, regardless of the strength of the storm.