Second Sunday of Advent
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah: Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way. A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight, and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.
Members remain standing while the Gospel is read. After the Gospel is read, members kiss the Gospel and are seated. After an appropriate period of reflection, members are invited to share their own lights from the Holy Spirit in relation to this Gospel passage. The secretary synthesizes reflections into a brief summary for the team.
(30 minutes) See monthly schedule
The Better Part
Consider privately reflecting on the corresponding chapter from The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek, LC, ThD during the week.
Unit #93 – “Getting Ready” – Mark 1:1-6
“You are one with Jesus as the members are one with the head, so you must have with him one spirit, one soul, one life, one will, one intention, one heart. It is he himself who is to be spirit, heart, love, life, everything for you. In the life of a Christian all these marvels have their origin in baptism, are increased and strengthened by confirmation and the good use of the other graces in which God makes him share, and are perfected above all by the holy Eucharist.” St John Eudes
Christ as Lord
St Mark gets right to the point. The Old Testament quotation with which he introduces his Gospel would have been familiar to his readers. They would have recognized that it began one of Isaiah’s descriptions of the promised Messiah. Thus, Mark makes clear from the very beginning who Jesus Christ is: the long-awaited Savior, the fulfillment of the Father’s ancient promise, the one mightier than even the greatest of prophets.
Here is more of Isaiah’s prophecy, a prophecy that, as the rest of Mark’s Gospel will show, comes true in Jesus Christ:
Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm; Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. 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 40:10-11)
The awesome power of God flowing through the loving care of a gentle shepherd – this is Christ the Lord.
All the physical characteristics St Mark describes about St John the Baptist echo his message; they also point to the Savior. He is baptizing in the Jordon River, a symbol of universal salvation, both for the Jews and for the Gentiles. The Israelites had miraculously crossed that river in order to enter into the Promised Land; Naaman the Syrian had bathed in the Jordon to induce his miraculous cure from leprosy. St John is wearing clothes reminiscent of those worn by the Prophet Elijah, who was expected to reappear at the start of the messianic age. He also ate the only insect permitted by the Jewish law to be used as food – this fidelity to Old Testament regulations gives credibility to his preaching. The Lord is coming, and his Precursor is worthy of his role.
Christ as Teacher
John the Baptist is celebrated repeatedly throughout the liturgical year. He especially occupies a central role in the liturgy of Advent, because during Advent the Church does what John taught the Israelites to do: get ready for Christ’s coming.
John is described as the one who “prepares a way for the Lord” and “makes his paths straight.” His example of humility and poverty (he ate the poorest of food, dressed in the poorest of clothes, and lived in the wilderness) gave weight to his words when he told people to repent of their arrogance and greed. The baptism he administered symbolized the people’s desire to turn away from selfishness and be faithful to God’s will, a desire that he could stir up because he was already living that kind of fidelity.
This same interior conversion is an ongoing thing for all Christians, as we strive to become more like Christ each day. The Church emphasizes this part of Christian spirituality during its two penitential seasons, Advent and Lent. Advent, St John the Baptist’s most visible liturgical season, is the beginning of the liturgical year, a time to examine our hearts and to remove from them all selfishness, impatience, and laziness, so that they can become worthy dwelling places – wide, smooth, and well kept roads – for the King who is on his way. And not only should we prepare our own hearts, but also, like John, the sincerity of our repentance should embolden us to invite and assist others to make room for Christ in their lives. If John had not announced Christ’s coming with his words and example, many of his peers would have been unprepared for God’s action in their lives; if we keep Christ’s message, the Good News of Christmas and Easter, to ourselves, many of our peers will be deprived of the grace of God, which they need so badly.
Christ as Friend
As that wise and revered devotion, the Rosary, instructs us, it is not only during Advent that should we turn our hearts and minds in a special way to that first Christmas, when Christ was born in Bethlehem and the New Covenant began. The lessons of Christ’s incarnation and birth should always be nourishing our hearts and minds.
That holy night he became one of us; he entered into the sorrows, joys, hopes, and fears of human life. Why? To be able to administer a baptism that would not only symbolize our desire for God’s friendship, as John’s did, but actually make it happen. He was coming to reunite us with God, to make it possible for us to experience the intense meaning and joy that God wanted for us from the beginning, which sin had destroyed. He came because he saw that we needed a friend who would never fail us, a heart that would always love us, and a strength that would constantly support us. Every Christmas, and every day, he wants to come again, and he hopes that there will be room in our inn.
Christ in my Life
You didn’t have to come and save me, Lord. I had freely abandoned you, and I deserved to receive what I had chosen. But you didn’t give me what I deserved. You love me too much. It’s hard for me to fathom that. Help me know your love. There are no strings attached to it; it’s pure interest in me. You have to be my light and salvation. Thank you, Lord…
You are always reaching out to me with your wisdom and guidance, but I am not always ready to listen. I get so preoccupied with my own things; I forget that my primary and most important identity is that of being your disciple. Everything else is secondary. Help me clear away the clutter in my mind and heart, so that I am always ready to receive whatever graces you want to send…
Dear Jesus, if I believed more deeply that you are the only Good News that really matters, I would be more eager to share it with those around me who don’t know it yet, or haven’t believed in it. Increase my faith, Jesus; with the zeal of your heart, inflame my heart…;
Questions for Discussion
1. What struck you most in this passage? What did you notice that you hadn’t noticed before?
2. St John the Baptist practiced what he preached; he showed forth Christ’s message in word and deed. How can we be better witnesses of Christ to our community?
3. Why do you think God decided to send someone to announce that the Messiah was on his way? Why didn’t he just have Jesus announce himself?
4. When you were baptized and confirmed, you received the Holy Spirit. What difference have those sacraments made in your life? How can you take even better advantage of them?