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Full Text in a PDF Click Here Creative Voice by Marie Dennis (First Sunday of Advent) Copyright © November 2014 l Education for Justice, a Project of the Center of Concern 

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.  ~ Isaiah 40:11


“This is what I am asking you —
be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”
(Pope Francis March 28, 2013) 

Pope Francis’ exhortation, “smell like sheep,” will frame our reflections in the coming weeks. From every perspective, the story that comes into powerful focus in a Bethlehem stable and follows thereafter the journey of a carpenter’s son from birth all the way to Jerusalem is about his proximity to sheep. Advent itself is a time full of expectation and hope, especially when viewed from the margins, where the sheep live. It is a holy time defined by a Promise that The One Who Is To Come – who himself is the Lamb of God – will gather the flock to heal the brokenness and bring just and lasting peace.

As we read once again the beautiful, hopeful verses from Isaiah, we are mindful of the thousands of years of hoping that have so deeply shaped the Judeo-Christian tradition. What a tremendous responsibility we who live in these early years of the 21st century have to future generations who depend upon us to keep that hope alive. It could so easily be crushed. At the same time, we see all around the world quite amazing examples of operational hope – ordinary people making peace in the midst of terrible violence, working for social justice, and learning to live in harmony with the natural world.

From the early Advent exhortation “be prepared” to the late Advent exclamation “nothing is impossible for God!” let us explore the richness of the Scriptural passages chosen for this season; embrace the implications of welcoming the Prince of Peace into a very violent world; and prepare ourselves to celebrate with abandon the amazing Gift of Love we will soon receive!

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT – November 30, 2014

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come…”
Mark 13:33

• Isaiah 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64: 2-7
• Psalm 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19
• 1 Corinthians 1: 3-9
• Mark 13: 33-37

Once again we are surprised by Advent’s arrival – and woefully unprepared! But Isaiah is unrelenting, so we slowly extricate ourselves from the complications of life where the “not yet” of, for example, extremist violence so clearly abounds, and we turn toward the Promise already and not yet fulfilled.

2It was a little settlement a few hours drive outside of Kabul – a few tents and a house or two populated by families trying to reclaim life after years living as refugees in Pakistan. The narrow pathway to one of the small houses was lined with stones painted half red and half white. The white half of the stones marking the pathway faced in, indicated that the path itself was cleared of landmines. The red half of the stones pointed out to the rest of the yard around the house, indicated that there could well be landmines buried there. How does a family live with children or animals under those circumstances? They, like all their neighbors, were trying to eke out an existence in a geography riddled with landmines and unexploded ordinance, including bomblets from cluster bombs.

Hope in the village was clearly present. What else could have driven those few courageous families to return? But it was hard to pin down.

The vineyards were bursting with life, laden with grapes; they also were riddled with landmines. De-miners were carefully inching their way down the rows of grapevines, slowly pushing back the fear, the terrible threat of violence, to make room for life. Work toward the New Creation, work for peace is like that: slowly pushing back the fear, the terrible threat of violence, the reality of social injustice, to make room for life.

Effective peacemaking acknowledges the interdependence of communities around the world. The fact that our security is intrinsically interconnected with that of the families in that little village in Afghanistan is crucial. In the soil surrounding the village are planted the landmines of further violence and the seeds of peace, but to understand that fact and to discern how we as individuals or nations, might nurture the seeds of peace and snuff out the roots of violence, we have to get close enough to such marginal places, from where the world looks entirely different, to “smell like the sheep.”


During these weeks of waiting for the Prince of Peace, notice the different ways that you draw near enough to marginalized people and places to “smell like the sheep.”

  • Do you live in a poor neighborhood or an impoverished country?
  • Do you work with people on the margins?
  • Do you look for a deeper understanding of the news, especially paying attention to the stories of impoverished people caught in war, overwhelmed with other forms of violence?


Solidarity requires that we think and act in terms of our obligations as members of a global community, despite differences of race, religion or nationality. We are responsible for actively promoting the dignity of the world’s poor through global economic reform, development assistance and institutions designed to meet the needs of the hungry, refugees, and the victims of war. Solidarity, Pope John Paul II reminds us, contributes to peace by providing “a firm and persevering determination” to seek the good of all.

“Peace,” he declares, will be “the fruit of solidarity.” (The Harvest of Justice is Sown in Peace, NCCB/USCC 1993)


Read the Isaiah passages selected for each day in the coming
• Monday, December 1 – Isaiah 2: 1-5
• Tuesday, December 2 – Isaiah 11: 1-10
• Wednesday, December 3 – Isaiah 25: 6-10A
• Thursday, December 4 – Isaiah 26: 1-6
• Friday, December 5 – Isaiah 29: 17-24
• Saturday, December 6 – Isaiah 30: 19-21, 23-26

As you read, write down the content of the vision the author develops. Identify one concrete step you will take to move the Promise toward fulfillment.

  • Monday, December 1 is World AIDS Day. Remember in your prayers all those living with HIV and AIDS, that they will be treated with love and justice.
  • Tuesday, December 2 is the 34th anniversary of the brutal assassination of four U.S. church women-Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan in El Salvador. Pray on this day for an end to the violence of criminals and gangs in El Salvador.

Jesus, you reminded your friends, “Be watchful! Be alert!” As we enter fully into this holy season of hope, help us to be alert to the impact of our decisions, rooted in fear, on impoverished people around the world. We are afraid of terrorism, afraid of Ebola, afraid of “the other.” Help us to calm our fears and to put our trust in you for “…we are the clay and you the potter.” Help us to believe that we – all people everywhere – are the work of your hands.” Nurture the virtue of solidarity in us as we wait in hope for peace on earth.