December 10, 2023: Second Sunday of Advent
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Our Gospel writer wastes no time in highlighting John the Baptist‘s character. After the Evangelist boldly proclaims “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God,” there is an immediate reference to the prophet Isaiah’s words. Mark engages them to describe John’s identity and function. He is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy; he is God’s messenger whose role it is to help prepare people for the coming of the Messiah.
The people need to look within and identify where they have failed to live up to their Covenant with Yahweh and they need to resolve to transform their lives so as to be in right relationship with their God. The message and the actions at the Jordan River experience are as valid today for us as they were for the people of First Century Common Era Palestine.
There is an endless need in our world for voices that cry out about injustices, for persons that challenge the abusively powerful and who face down criticism, ridicule and even persecution. Just as John appeared in the desert and lived out his mission, we are invited to appear with passion and steadfastness to actions of love, mercy and justice for all people and for all creation.
John the Baptizer called the people to repent, to see things differently and, as a result, to live differently. Today’s Responsorial Psalm is from Psalm 85. In Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, she renders Psalm 85, verse 9 as Listen, O people, in the silent chapel of your heart; and the Beloved will speak of peace to you. Perhaps this week, you might take some time to enter the silent chapel of your heart, away from all distractions and accept being filled with the Spirit that invites you to wholeness and to action.