With the first Sunday of Advent began a new liturgical year, characterised on Sunday’s by the reading of the Gospel of Mark. This Sunday, the 2nd of Advent, we are taken to the beginning of Mark’s Gospel, and the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus.
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. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’
Tradition suggests that Mark’s Gospel was written in Rome, for a community whose security was shaken by persecution and apostasy. Mark relates Gospel, apparently basing his account on the personal memories of St. Peter, to restore the community to faith and faithful living.
The beginning of the beginning is a tale of the forgiveness of sins, of restoration and healing. There is comfort here for Israel, for that broken community in Rome, and for us.
Photograph is of mosaic at West Front of St Mark’s, Venice – traditional burial place of St Mark – showing the basilica as it was in the 13th Century. (c) 2008, Allen Morris