Mark skips all the information about the birth of Christ and goes right into his ministry. To Mark, Jesus’ ministry was the most important aspect, so the details of Christ’s birth and youth are omitted. Mark tells us who Jesus is and that a messenger will prepare the way by teaching the people and pointing to the one who is “mightier than I”.
Mark starts the Gospel telling us about the preparation for the coming of our Savior’s ministry. In the opening words: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.” Mark tells us that Jesus is the Son of God. Mark immediately references Isaiah the Prophet who foretold that a messenger would prepare the way for the coming of our Savior.
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.”
Mark tells us that “John the Baptist appeared in the desert ….” A desert was more than just a place with lots of sand. It referred to any deserted place where there were no homes or buildings; a place people would normally avoid. In addition, John was radically different from the people of that time. The Gospel tells us that “John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey.”
John the Baptist had great success despite his different life style from all the people of Judea and Jerusalem. Mark tells us that “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.”
In spite of his great success as an evangelizer and prophet of that day, John was a very humble person. John did not take credit for the many people who acknowledged their sins and were baptized by him in the Jordan river. John told the people “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.”
As we learn here, John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah by preparing the way for Christ. John was preparing the people by preaching a message of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, by baptizing the people and then pointing the people toward the coming Savior. But that was two thousand years ago. What about now?
Many people today think that Advent is just a time of preparing for Christmas; the birth of Christ. If so, we have missed the importance of Advent. Our new Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg wrote “If we only look forward to Christmas as the birth of our Savior in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, we have missed the real message of Advent and Christmas. ….. Advent is really about preparing for a future event – namely, the coming of Jesus at the end of time.”
Bishop Daniel continued: “Thus, Advent is really about preparing for our Lord’s future coming and not just celebrating a past event.” Mark gives us this Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior. Now we must prepare ourselves and those we meet for that future coming.
In Greek, the word prepare means to make ready, not to construct something new. We prepare, or make ourselves ready to be the messenger by attending mass, studying the Bible, daily prayer and by serving others. It’s obvious that you attend mass, or you would not be hearing this message.
But what about Bible study? Our lives are so busy with all the commitments we have for work, family, children, school and, yes, church. If we could only spend five minutes reading the Bible each day it can change the way we think, the way we treat others and help us to be happier for the blessings God has promised for us. Download one of the many apps for the Catholic Daily Readings and they are right at your fingertips. The usccb.org site will send an e-mail each day with the Daily Readings. You can even listen to them as well as read them.
We often think that Prayer requires a lot of time. What if we start by spending five more minutes a day in prayer that we already do? That would be the start of a new routine for some of us. For others it would only be a few more minutes in prayer each day.
Think about how difficult it is to just sit and wait in God’s presence during prayer. Even five minutes seems like an eternity. I know that it is difficult for me sometimes. My mind begins to wander to other things because I want to be doing something instead of just sitting and waiting. I struggle to bring myself back to the moment of waiting in the quiet of God’s presence. Time spent in prayer will improve our relationship with God. Consider downloading the Divine Office app and praying Morning and Evening prayers or one of the other Prayer apps for Catholics. These prayers help us to focus our attention on Jesus the Son of God. Prayer is not always about what we want God to do for us; it is also a time for us to listen and let God show us how to help others.
Understanding God’s Word in the Bible and spending time in prayer will prepare us to face the day to day issues that come our way. It will also prepare us when tragedy strikes because we know that our help and strength come from God.
We usually think of Advent as a time of waiting. As we have discovered here, Advent is also a time of preparing, a time of preparing our hearts with anticipation for the coming of our Savior at the end of time.
When we wait with anticipation for an upcoming event, there are many things that must be done. We spend hours preparing for the occasion. We tell our friends about the coming event and the preparations we are making for the visit.
Anticipation can also be described as “in preparation for” or “Hope” or “Joy”. Merriam-Webster defines anticipation as “visualization of a future event or state”. Are we able to visualize the future coming of our Savior? We must anticipate that second coming with joy so that we too can see Jesus face to face in the Kingdom he has prepared for us.
I don’t see anyone here clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt around their waist. And I doubt that any of us are eating locusts or wild honey in this climate, especially at this time of year. We are not that different from the people around us like John was in his day. However, we are still called to be messengers to prepare the way of the Lord. We do that by sharing the Scriptures we learned from the Daily Readings and by the power of the Holy Spirit who will guide us with the right words to comfort a stranger we just met, the teenager and her family who is pregnant, the family whose son was arrested and is facing jail time.
Are we being a messenger for the second coming of our Lord? We will never be as great as John the Baptist. But are we, like John the Baptist, preparing the way and pointing others to our Lord?
Do we look beyond the celebration of Christmas as the birth of Christ to his second coming as our Savior? Can others see that we are looking with anticipation for our Lord’s coming? Are we helping others prepare for Christ’s second coming by the way we live our lives?