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Second Sunday of Advent - Sr. Nuala Cotter

Année liturgique 2017-2018 [B]

Gift and task

Mark opens his gospel with a momentous declaration :

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

“The beginning of.” Something is being launched, something so worthy of recognition by us readers that Mark signals explicitly : This is “the beginning.” It’s the start of the story, and it’s also the foundation for

“the gospel” --- Evangelion. Literally, “the good news.” Good news ! That’s as rare now as it was back when Mark sat down to write his book, and just as deeply longed for. This good news is the message of salvation for all humankind.

We see too that Mark says we are at the beginning of the good news

“of Jesus” – that is to say, the news that this Jesus — whoever he is — brings to us. Through his very self. 

As it happens, Mark will also provide information about Jesus and his deeds, but here he insists that the Good News belongs to Jesus, is something he gives. In Mark’s book, Jesus is the lead actor.

JesusYeshua. Joshua. Literally, “God saves.” What was an historical fact for Israel – think of the Exodus from Egypt and the Crossing into the Promised Land, the return from Exile as well –becomes a promise for all the rest of us.

In addition to the powerful name that he bears, Jesus is the

“Christ.” Not, as many believe, Jesus’ last name, but a title, a translation into Greek from the Hebrew. The Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ/ Mashiach is rendered Χριστός /Christos in Greek, the language in which Mark is writing. So Jesus Christ means Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the “Anointed One.” 

And finally, in this single verse, Mark gives us the key to Jesus’ identity and the foundation of all the “good news” that will follow, for he tells us that Jesus is

“the Son of God.” Mark’s bold declaration here sets up this theme of Jesus’ Sonship, which will reach its climax in his gospel at the foot of the Cross, when the Centurion confesses : 

“Truly, this was the Son of God” (15:39)

These twelve simple words “prepare the way” for the story that unfolds in the next seven verses of today’s gospel : the quotation from the Prophet Isaiah about the mysterious “voice” crying out in the desert, and the appearance of John the Baptist, who is that voice. We see John, dressed like Elijah, preparing the way for the One who will come to baptize with the Holy Spirit. And we learn that the air of the Judean desert rang so loudly with his preaching that “people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” came out to experience it for themselves. 

Starting with its weighty first sentence, this gospel passage prompts us to listen to the voice and to desire the coming of the Lord. This week, as we go deeper into Advent, may such listening and desiring be both gift and task for us. 

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus !

Sr. Nuala Cooter, ra
Worcester - United States of America

December 10, 2017/ Second Sunday of Advent
Is 40:1-5, 9-11 ; Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14 ; 2 Pt 3:8-14 ; Mk 1:1-8

PS – This reflection had no room for a discussion of today’s first reading of Isaiah 40, but happily, the world of great music offers us something much better : George Frideric Handel’s “Comfort Ye My People,” part of his great oratorio Messiah. If you’d like to listen, here’s a link to a beautiful, meditative performance by the late tenor Jerry Hadley. 

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