The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B - December 4th, 2011

Preachers, politicians and teachers are often reminded that if you want to hold the attention of your audience it is important to have a strong beginning which will arouse interest in the listeners and encourage them to pay attention.  Mark does this with his gospel although perhaps in a way that we are unable to appreciate.  The people of Mark's time knew that the Messiah was expected by the jews.  This was not news.  What was news was that the Messiah was God.  Mark lets the listener/ reader know, right from the outset, that what he is telling us is something new - this Jesus is not just another messenger.

As if to highlight the fact that Jesus is different from the typical idea of the Messiah we see him being contrasted with the figure of John the Baptist.  John explicitly makes reference to a repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  As we see many times throughout the gospels the forgiveness of sins was reserved exclusively to God.  Then John continues by emphasising the difference between him and Jesus - the one who is to come after him.

John's message is about preparing the way.  The message of Jesus does not need to do this because he himself is the way and those who follow him are on the way.  John baptises with water but Jesus will baptise with the Holy Spirit.  John can only give the people an outward sign of cleansing; Jesus will give them the gift that is God.

The temptation with Advent is to skip directly to the feast of Christmas.  The child in the crib is such an attractive reality that we would like to spend time there ; not unlike Peter on Mount Tabor we think it is good to be here.  However, to skip directly to Christmas would be to miss out on these fundamental steps that today's gospel presents us with.

Mark tells us that Jesus is God.  Do we believe this?  Do we believe that the defenseless baby of Bethlehem is the almighty God?  Do we believe that our salvation depends on our believing that Jesus is the Son of God?

These questions are introduced by Mark at the beginning of his gospel as if to say to us that there is no point in going any further with his text unless we are clear that what we are reading about is about God's presence in our world.  Just as Jesus is not just another prophet or messenger so Mark's gospel is not just another book.  Both engage us at the level of faith; both challenge us about our faith; and both give direction to our faith.

Today's gospel passage, then, places us squarely in the context of a profession of faith right from the outset.  The question is: How do we respond to the questions it raises?


Article posted on 30th of November 2011

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