Daily Gospel Meditation & Discussion - Sunday 7December 2008 - OUR CALL TO BE LIGHTS POINTING OTHERS TO JESUS


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[LEFT]" Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
(Isaiah 40:1-3)



John the Baptist’s life was fueled by one burning passion – to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of his kingdom.

Who is John the Baptist and what is the significance of his message for our lives?

Scripture tells us that John was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15, 41) by Christ himself, whom Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth John




Mark’s Gospel begins like this: The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God! (Mk 1:1). Everything has a beginning, even the Good News of God that Jesus communicates to us. The text we propose for our meditation shows us how Mark sought this beginning. He quotes the prophets Isaiah and Malachi and mentions John the Baptist, who prepared the coming of Jesus. Mark thus tells us that the Good News of God, revealed by Jesus, did not suddenly come down from heaven, but came from long ago, through history. And it has a precursor, someone who prepared the coming of Jesus.
For us too, the Good News comes through people and events that point the way that leads to Jesus. That is why, while meditating Mark’s text, it is good not to forget this question: “In the story of my life, who showed me the way to Jesus?” Again another question: “Have I helped anyone to discover the Good News of God in his or her life? Have I been the precursor for anyone?”

Mark 1:1: The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God
In the first sentence of his Gospel, Mark says: The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, Son of God! (Mk 1:1). At the end of the Gospel, when Jesus is dying, a soldier exclaims: Truly this man was the Son of God (Mk 15:39). At the beginning and at the end we come across this title, Son of God. Between the beginning and the end, throughout the pages of his Gospel, Mark explains how this central truth of our faith, that Jesus is the Son of God, has to be understood and proclaimed.
Mark 1:2-3: The seed of the Good News is hidden in the hope of people
To point to the beginning of the Good News, Mark quotes the prophets Malachi and Isaiah. In the texts of these two prophets we see the hope that dwelt in the hearts of the people in the time of Jesus. The people hoped that the messenger, proclaimed by Malachi, would come to prepare the way of the Lord (Mal 3:1), as was proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah who said:A voice cries, 'Prepare in the desert a way for Yahweh. Make a straight highway for our God across the wastelands (Is 40:3). For Mark, the seed of the Good News is the hope raised in people by the great promises that Jesus had made in the past through the two prophets. To this day, the hope of the people is the hook on which the Good News of God hangs. In order to know how to begin proclaiming the Good News, it is important to discover the hope that the people hold in their hearts. Hope is the last to die!
Mark 1:4-5: The popular movement begun by John the Baptist increases people’s hope
Mark does what we still do today. He uses the Bible to shed light on the facts of life. John the Baptist had started a great popular movement. All Judea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to John! Mark uses the texts from Malachy and Isaiah to shed light on this popular movement begun by John the Baptist. He shows that with the coming of John the Baptist, the hope of the people had begun to find an answer, to be realised. The seed of the Good News begins to sprout and grow.
Mark 1:6-8: John the Baptist is the prophet Elijah expected by the people
It was said of Elijah that he would come to prepare the way of the Messiah, “He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents” (Mal 3:24; cf Lk 1:17), in other words, they hoped that Elijah would come to rebuild community life. Elijah was known as “a man wearing a hair cloak…and a leather loincloth” (2 Kg 1:8). Mark says that John wore camel hair. He was saying clearly that John the Baptist had come to fulfil the mission of the Prophet Elijah (Mk 9:11-13).
In the 70’s, the time when Mark was writing, many people thought that John the Baptist was the Messiah (cf. Acts 19:1-3). To help them discern, Mark reports John’s own words: After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit. Mark says that John points the way to Jesus. He tells the Community that John was not the Messiah, but his precursor.

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The solemn proclamation of the Good News (Mk 1:9-11)
People thought that John’s baptism came from God! (Mk 11:32). Like the people, Jesus also saw that God was manifesting himself in John’s message. That is why he left Nazareth, went to the Jordan and stood in line to be baptised. As he was about to be baptised, Jesus had a deep experience of God. He saw the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descending on him, and the voice of the Father saying: You are my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on you. These few words include three very important points.
i) Jesus experienced God as Father and himself as Son. Herein lies the great novelty that he communicates to us: God is Father. The God who was distant as the Most High Lord, draws near to us as Father, quite close as Abbà, Dad. This is the heart of the Good News that Jesus brings to us.
ii) There is a phrase that Jesus heard from the Father and from the prophet Isaiah where the Messiah is proclaimed as the Servant of God and of the people (Is 42:1). The Father was announcing to Jesus his mission as Messiah Servant, and not as glorious King. Jesus took on this mission of service and was faithful to it even to dying, and dying on the cross! (cf. Phil 2:7-8) He said: "I did not come to be served, but to serve!” (Mk 10:45).
iii) Jesus saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. It is precisely when Jesus discovers his mission as Messiah Saviour that he receives the Holy Spirit to enable him to carry out his mission. The gift of the Spirit had been promised by the prophets (Is 11:1-9; 61:1-3; Joel 3:1). The promise begins to take place solemnly when the Father proclaims Jesus his beloved son.
The Good News is tried and verified in the desert (Mk 1:12-13)
After the baptism, the Spirit of God takes possession of Jesus and takes him into the desert, where he prepares himself for his mission (Mk 1:12ff). Mark says that Jesus stayed in the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil, Satan. Matthew 4:1-11 makes the temptations explicit: temptations that assaulted the people in the desert after their exodus from Egypt: the temptation of the bread, the temptation of prestige, the temptation of power (Dt 8:3; 6:16; Dt 6:13). Temptation is anything that assaults someone on the way to God. By allowing the Word of God to guide him, Jesus meets the temptations and will not allow himself to be turned aside (Mt 4:4.7.10). In all things he is like us, even in matters of temptation, except for sin (Heb 4:15). Immersed among the poor and one with the Father through prayer, faithful to the Father and to prayer, he resists and follows the way of the Messiah-Servant, the way of service to God and the people (Mt 20:28).

*** The beginning of the Good News of Jesus, today! The seed of the Good News among us. **

Mark begins his Gospel by describing the beginning of the proclamation of the Good News of God. We might have expected a precise date. But what we have is what seems to be a confused answer. Mark quotes Isaiah and Malachi (Mk 1:2-3), speaks of John the Baptist (Mk 1:4-5), alludes to the prophet Elijah (Mk 1:4), refers to the prophecy concerning the Servant of Yahweh (Mk 1:11) and calls our attention to the temptations of the people in the desert after the exodus from Egypt (Mk 1:13). And we ask: “But, Mark, when was the precise moment of the beginning: at the exodus from Egypt, with Moses, Isaiah, Malachi, John the Baptist? When?” The beginning, the seed, could be all of these at once. What Mark wants to suggest is that we must learn to read our history from a different perspective. The beginning, the seed of the Good News of God is hidden in our lives, our past, the history that we live. The people of the Bible were convinced that God is present in our lives and our history. That is why they kept recalling the facts and persons of the past. Anyone who loses the memory of his or her identity, does not know where he or she comes from or where he or she is going. The people of the Bible read the history of the past to learn how to read the history of the present and to discover there the signs of the presence of God. This is what Mark is doing at the beginning of his Gospel. He tries to discover the facts and focuses on the thread of hope that came from the exodus, from Moses, through the prophets Elijah, Isaiah and Malachi, down to John the Baptist who sees in Jesus the one who fulfils the hope of the people.
Small as we are, what threads of hope exist today in our history, that point to a better and more just future? Here are some possible suggestions: (1) resistance and a general awareness in the world of oppressed ethnic groups seeking life and dignity for all; (2) such a new consciousness in many men and women that reveals new dimensions in life that were not perceived before; (3) a new ecological sensibility that grows everywhere, above all among the young and children; (4) a growing awareness of citizenship that seeks new forms of democracy; (5) discussion and debate on social problems that give rise to a greater desire for a transforming participation even among those who in the midst of their work and study still find time to dedicate themselves to serve others freely; (6) a growing search for new relationships of softness and respect among persons and nations; (7) a growing indignation towards corruption and violence. In a word, there is something new that is growing and that does not allow for indifference before political, social, cultural, class and gender abuses. There is a new hope, a new dream, a desire for change! The proclamation of the Good News will be really Good News if it brings this newness that is beginning to grow among people. Helping people to open their eyes to see this newness, committing the community of faith to seek this utopia, means recognising the liberating and transforming presence of God acting in the daily events of our lives.


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