Each Tuesday throughout the Advent season, we’ll post a reflection on the readings for the upcoming Sunday in Advent. The reflection will be available on our homepage through the weekend and then archived on our Advent 2020 webpage.

The reflection below is written by Martha Hennessy and excerpted from our Advent-Christmas 2020 reflection booklet (still available as a download for your e-reader). Martha lives and works on the family farm in Vermont and at Maryhouse House Catholic Worker in New York City. She is a retired occupational therapist and has eight grandchildren. She was recently sentenced in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia for her participation in the Kings Bay Plowshares nuclear disarmament action of April 4th, 2018. Martha is the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, the seventh child of Dorothy Day’s only child Tamar.


reflection for the first sunday of advent, november 29, 2020

by Martha Hennessy

~40th Anniversary of Dorothy Day’s Death~

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7 | 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 | Mark 13:33-37

“Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” (Mk 13:33)

Our task of watchfulness will always be with us. Mark’s chapter 13 warns of the destruction of the Temple, signs of the end, and paying attention to the signs of our Lord at the gate.

Dorothy Day

My mother Tamar watched with her mother Dorothy, as my grandmother’s death drew near. It was in the evening that she passed on to God, her life given over to loving the least among us. The sting of that loss and grief is still with me, but I am grateful that we have Dorothy in heaven to pray for us in these turbulent times. We are being scourged with war, pestilence, and famine. It has been 18 years since the destruction of Iraq and 5 years of the bombing and starving of Yemen. Our own streets are now reflecting these sins; our chickens have come home to roost. Jesus will come upon us in this chaotic state and what will we have to say for ourselves? There is nothing to do but repent in this opening moment of Advent. We will wait in hope for his coming, the infant Christ, God who has come to us in our own form. Our Prince of Peace came to teach us how to love one another. We have failed miserably when we take an honest look at our world today.

I myself am now a convicted felon, awaiting sentencing. I was forced to ask myself: “What does your faith mean in this age of nuclearism?” Two years before the 75th anniversary of our dropping of the Bomb on two Japanese cities, I chose to walk onto a military base that houses nuclear weapons and submarines. I came with my companions to deliver our bodies and blood for a sacramental act of disarmament. I grew up with the phrase from Dorothy and the Father Hugo retreats: “We must die to ourselves, put off the old one and put on the new.” Renewal in Christ provides an opportunity to do penance, seek God’s mercy, and try anew each day to practice God’s love with each other. Current signs indicate that we have chosen to love objects and technology rather than each other, an immense affliction and violation. Yet the beginning of Advent once again brings us to our knees in gratitude and acknowledgement that we are helpless when we turn away from God’s love.

In our daily tasks, how do we practice “dying to the self” and
bring heaven on earth as God intended us to do?

PRAYER: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless, strengthen the fearful, comfort the sorrowful, bring justice to the poor, and peace to all nations.” (Bob W., Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, OK)

4 thoughts on “Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, November 29

  1. I hope you can translate these into Spanish, they are wonderful. Take care, Margaret Flanagan

  2. To my favorite FELON Martha; many thanks for that reflection which gets my Advent off to an uplifting start. Our loving God will be close to you as you navigate behind those prison bars. I (we) will be with you also.

  3. Martha, it is always heartening to be reminded of Dorothy Day. She was an extraordinary woman who lived love and justice so concretely. It sounds like you are a woman who takes after her grandmother and does the same. I was first really awakened to justice issues through my study of the Just War Theory. I realized most of it no longer applied in light of nuclear weapons being developed. At the time of my study, nuclear weapons were being proliferated. It was then that I wrote my first letters to congress people and went to a protest against a developing war. Thank you for your extraordinary actions witnessing on behalf of justice and your faith around issues of nuclearism.

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