To begin this Second Week of Advent, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity offer a video message from Sister Pam Biehl, Pastoral Leader at St. Mary Parish. Omro, Wisconsin and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne, Wisconsin. It is followed by our weekly Gospel reflection by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM.
Advent Video Message
Second Sunday of Advent Gospel Reflection
Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM’s content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection December 6 2020. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Picture: Archdiocese of Milwaukee Immaculate Conception, Bav View, Wisconsin (You are invited to come and see the window in person and pray at Mass or 24 hour Adoration.)
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.”
Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark’s gospel does not begin with a genealogy. A genealogy was one way to explain why this carpenter from a small town of Nazareth is worthy of a proclamation, a gospel. In Jesus’ day, a proclamation was about the birth of a royal son or a military victory. Mark’s first verse says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The people of the day would ask, “Who is this Jesus Christ?” They would also understand the phrase “son of” to mean “having the qualities of.” So, this opening statement is proclaiming that Jesus has the qualities of God, and therefore, his birth and his story must be proclaimed.
After the proclamation, Mark quotes the great prophet Isaiah, and he also draws on and reworks the prophet Malachi: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me… And suddenly there will come to the temple the LORD whom you seek, and the messenger of the covenant whom you desire. Yes, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the LORD comes, the great and terrible day…” (Malachi 3:1, 23). Using Isaiah’s and Malachi’s prophecy arc introduces John as the one who prepares the way for the coming of Jesus. When the people of Israel were freed from Egyptian slavery, they were first led by God into the desert before they entered the promised land. This exodus experience becomes the model of liberation and encounter with God by which the Jews understand God working in and throughout their history. Mark draws on this understanding in presenting John the Baptist: the one in the desert who was preparing the way for one who has the qualities of God.
Unlike the Essenes, who practiced a ritual of washing that was meant only for those of their community, John’s baptism is for everyone. John proclaims a message of a call to repentance or the forgiveness of sin, and the coming of one mightier than himself. It is very possible that he was thinking more in terms of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the final reign of God. The extent to which people respond to John indicates their spiritual hunger. They may have gone out just to see the man who was clothed in camel hair and ate locusts. But they responded to his message by being baptized, and by committing to making changes in their lives. They were committing themselves to living a more faithful relationship with God. Most peasants of the day lived their daily life with an enormous burden of debt. The approaching “day of the Lord,” with its judgment and a time when all debts would be forgiven, would have been appealing to most. Unlike the Essenes, who became an isolated ascetical desert community who also waited for the day of the Lord, John’s message was focused on people who were returning to their families and their communities with a renewed dedication to their relationship with God.
- How do things like the pandemic and other events of world affect your readiness to begin to look for God’s working in a new year?
- What is your awareness of yourself during periods of waiting? Is the waiting that is asked of you this Advent different in some ways? How is it different? How is it similar?
- Who are the people in your own life who have called you to look more deeply at your relationship with God?
- Where do you experience hope this year?
- Who are the people you know, or know of, who are deeply rooted in hope?
- Why was John’s call to repentance and forgiveness so powerful for the people of the day?
- Can you talk openly and honestly about your own desire for God’s presence in your life and in the world? What would that concretely mean for you, and for how you would like to be part of God’s reign in the coming year?