“Do not be afraid, open wide the doors to Christ.” St. JPII
As we head into Advent on our way to the birth of Jesus at Christmas, I think back to one year ago when we were going into Advent at this time. Little did we know what 2020 would bring. Now we are going into Advent again, but this is unlike any other Advent that we have ever experienced before. Many of us are apprehensive and worried about our loved ones, our jobs, our future. Many of us are isolated, lonely and afraid.
This brings with it a sense of loss, not only physical when some of our loved ones have passed away, but spiritual loss as well. There is also grief at not being able to hug our children, our grandparents and grandchildren. At not being able to get together with our friends and neighbours.
So what should we do?
Advent is coming again at just the right moment; Christ is coming again at just the right moment. He is coming with Hope. The Hope of everlasting life, no matter what happens today or tomorrow.
But we need Faith. A Faith that builds towards Hope. And a Hope that strengthens our Faith.
This coming year which is Year B in the liturgical cycle, we will be hearing the Gospel of Mark. This gospel I believe is the one that we need at this time. Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four gospels which has been underappreciated at times, so it is helpful to look at the context in which it was written.
Mark’s gospel was written in the 1st century during the 60’s to the Christians living in Rome under the persecution of Nero. Also a time of isolation, apprehension and fear.
Tradition tells us that Peter was in Rome at that time and Mark was his interpreter. The Church has always believed that Mark’s Gospel was Peter’s gospel. Which was his eyewitness account of his life with Jesus.
So we don’t have the long discourses like we have in the other Gospels. No Sermon on the Mount, no genealogies, etc. Rather, we have a lot of action, a lot of events happening one after another in quick succession. The word “immediately” appears 41 times in the Gospel of Mark out of the 58 times it is used in the New Testament.
Why? Because Mark, in translating Peter’s words, was writing to a community that was under intense suffering and persecution by Nero. Events were happening in their lives sometimes quickly and suddenly. The gospel gave the Christian community consolation, hope and strength, in order to lead them to a deeper encounter with Jesus. Because Jesus was always with them in their suffering. To persevere in their faith and not to fear. To a hope that they all longed for: everlasting life.
In Mark Chapter 4 Jesus tells us to listen, listen, listen. And in Mark Chapter 13 where we begin the first Sunday of Advent this year, Jesus tells us to watch, watch, watch and to stay awake. In between we will hear about people who are deaf and blind.
Advent will be different this year for me. As I pray and meditate on the Gospel of Mark, and I prepare to welcome Jesus again into my heart. I pray that if I am lonely that I would seek out someone who is lonelier than me. That if I have lost loved ones, that I would seek out someone who has lost more than me. That if I have received mercy that I would be merciful. Not in person perhaps, but with a phone call, a video call or even a letter.
Jesus died for me and rose again. The Christians in Rome also died and they will rise again in glory. I pray for their intercession so that their consolation is my consolation. Their Hope is my Hope. Their Faith is my Faith. Darkness cannot drive away darkness only light can. And they walk in His light.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors-
Through him who loved us…
Nothing will be able to separate us from the
Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord
Rom 8: 37-39
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
Lam 3: 22-23
For a deeper journey into the Gospel of Mark go to the FORMED link on this website. Then find the Lectio series on Mark. This is a free website to parishioners as it is paid for by the parish.