December 10, 2017
Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
The first word which opens the Gospel according to Mark – today we have heard just the first 8 verses of the first chapter – is an important and solemn word. It’s the word “arché” (Mk 1:1), which means beginning, origin, foundation. It is the word that opens the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where we find the creation account.
The evangelist Mark does not use this word at random: he wants to say that what he is about to tell is a beginning, a new history, a new creation. And what is at the beginning of this new creation? As at the beginning of the “first” creation there was the Word of God, the Word by which God created everything from nothing, so also now there is a new Word: it is a Word that God addresses to His Son, to the Messiah, just at the moment when the Son is about to enter the world.
The Evangelist deduces it from the Old Testament: “As it is written in the prophet Isaiah: 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” (Mk 1:2-3).
Mark refers this entire citation to Isaiah, but, in reality, the evangelist’s citation is the result of three different citations, of three different books of the Old Testament.
There is, first of all, Exodus (23:20): “Behold, I am sending an angel before you to guard you on your way and bring you to the place that I have prepared”; then there is the prophet Malachi (3:1): “Behold, I will send my messenger to prepare the way before me”. And, finally, there is indeed the prophet Isaiah (* “A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God”.
What have these three citations in common, to be able to remain together? They have in common the way, the journey, the path. It is, of course, the road on which people walk, on which they turn from exile to the promised land; but it is also the path on which the God Himself walks with His people, the path by which the Lord comes, because God is returning and again walks with His people. All this, says Mark, is a “gospel” (Mk 1:1) which means “good news”, a good announcement, a word full of hope. It is the announcement that God is present, that the exile is over, that the people are no longer alone.
So, we could say that every time we prepare to read the Gospel afresh, as today, it is a new possibility for each one, a new beginning, the providential opportunity, to re-position ourselves on the path and to re-experience believing in this Man, who spells out with His life the love of the Father, the presence of God in the midst of humanity.
Mark, again in the first verse, gives us two important signs that give us understanding of where this way will bring us. Immediately, the evangelist gives us a clue about Jesus and affirms that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One sent by God, He who was promised as king from the root of David, Who would have fulfilled the scriptures of the prophets. And then he also says that this man is Son of God, He is God Himself.
Mark, in short, tells immediately what is the destination, where the one who puts himself on the way, leaving from this new beginning which is Jesus Himself, will arrive. He tells where he will arrive who, little by little, will read His Gospel
And in fact, the Gospel according to Mark can be divided into two parts: the first culminates with Peter’s profession of faith (Mk 8:29), which proclaims Jesus as the Christ, as the awaited Messiah.
And the second goes further and comes to another profession of faith, that of the centurion under the cross (Mk 15:39) who, seeing Jesus dying in that manner, exclaims: “truly this man was the Son of God!”
So, we are on the way and our way must arrive there, under the cross, to see that first of all there is the love of a crucified God, there is a totally new thing, which is that of a God who dies for man.
Up to there, the path of God arrives in the midst of men.
This discovery comes at the end of the way, but it comes as a grace, not as a merit.
The entire walk must be done, it will be necessary to cover the entire Gospel, simply to let ourselves be stripped of all our false images of God and of ourselves, and to arrive there like the pagan centurion, to whom it was given, by grace, to recognize in that death the revelation of God in the midst of men.
Well, to start off in this new way, there is a man sent before to announce it, to prepare the way, to renew awareness that something is beginning again which is why it is good to prepare oneself.
So, as soon as John begins to baptize, many people immediately run to him: “all the region of Judea and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Mk 1:5). The way has opened again, the way of the wilderness on which the Lord returns: so many people set out on that way, set out on the journey. The inhabitants of Jerusalem leave, the temple, the sacrifices because all this no longer serves to quench the thirst of life, and they run (Mk 1:5) to the desert, where a voice resounds that, for a long time, was silent.
And the first step, the only one necessary to begin this journey, consists simply in establishing oneself in the truth, in admitting we are sinners and needing forgiveness: only this. In this consists conversion (metánoia, Mk 1:4), which the Baptist proclaims, in entering into the perspective of a way on which God comes to us, before we can ever go to Him.