Today’s Gospel: Mark 1: 1-8
Today is the Second Sunday of Advent, a time of preparation for the coming of the Lord. But what does it mean to prepare?
If John is our example, then preparation means living in the desert, eating bugs and wearing natural fabrics. This was, of course, part of John’s calling, not necessarily ours. John’s mission was to prepare the way for the One he calls “mightier” than himself. Even from his conception, John is the Precursor, one who runs the course ahead of everyone else. He is the voice crying in the wilderness, the herald of the good news of Christ.
John is crystal clear about how we should prepare for the coming of the Lord. Our entire life is really a preparation for a full reception of God’s salvation. It is that great a gift! So we are on this “road to salvation” constantly and John gives us concrete guidance in today’s reading. The people John touched were doing three things: “going out,” “being baptized,” and, “acknowledging their sins.”
To go out, we must get up (metaphorically and literally) and leave that armchair we are so fond of. Perhaps we need to go a little outside of our comfort zone to serve and love in an active way. A simple example follows. My son, Joseph, was asked by his choir teacher to play piano accompaniment for the chorus. He was in 7th grade and had never played the piano in front of his peers. He decided to do it. The following year, he was able to perform, “The Christmas Song,” as a solo. This year he is playing part of a Hayden sonata. Practicing going outside our comfort zone helps us to be ready for the next challenge and even to nurture that daring side of ourselves that wants to experience something new. When we go out of our comfort zone for the Lord, grace assists us and we become more aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Next, baptism refers to living out our baptismal calling. Each of us has his or her own way of becoming a disciple of the Master. We can only find out what that is by fidelity to our original calling as part of the family of God, sharing the son-ship of Christ and working for the kingdom of heaven in our own context. To do this we have to reject the idea that only “the professionals” are meant to serve God and further God’s kingdom. We all have a part to play. God desires that we listen and heed his voice. Too often the Lord is crying in the wilderness because his sons and daughters are not listening.
Finally we also must acknowledge our sin. This is not a downer, though it may seem so initially. Why do we have to keep on acknowledging our sins? Why can’t we just “be saved” and get on with life? The Catholic answer to this is very wise. The way our Tradition understands the human person is that we have been weakened by the legacy of sin. Therefore, even with very, very good intentions, we fall short. When we acknowledge our sins, we are asking for the mercy of God. When we recognize that we are sinners, we are directed not to our sin but to the Lord’s mercy and love.
As we prepare for Christmas, let us have a new beginning by following the Lord in these three ways. As we read Mark’s telling of the beginning of the good news, “the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God,” may we also be new creatures in Christ.
Lord, make me a new creation as I acknowledge my sin, and respond faithfully and boldly to the part you call me to play in your kingdom through my baptism.
When was the last time I went outside my comfort zone for the Lord?
Copyright 2014 Julie Paavola