|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Is 40:1-5, 9-11||Ps 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14||2 Pt 3:8-14||Mk 1:1-8|
Advent: Preparing the way by turning to the good news
As we continue our Advent waiting and preparation for the Lord’s coming at Christmas, the Lectionary announces good news and reminds RCIA participants and the believing community of our need for conversion to prepare the way.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks to the Jews captive in Babylon in the sixth century BC, promising their release and the restoration of Israel. God will lead them through the wilderness back to Judea, as God led Moses and the Israelites through the desert to the promised land. Isaiah tells the returning Jewish exiles to prepare a path through the wilderness for their Lord, and to shout the good news from the mountain: the exiles return and God renews the covenant! In Advent, the Christian believing community similarly prepares the Lord’s way by conversion: turning to God and away from everything else, and tells our good news from the mountain: through the incarnation God comes to be with us.
In the second reading from Peter’s second letter, the author addresses his community’s concerns about Jesus’ delayed return. Some false teachers are claiming that because Jesus hasn’t returned by this time (around 120 AD), he’s never returning. The author points out that divine time and human time aren’t the same. If humans think the parousia is taking too long, it’s because God is giving us a chance to turn back to God before the end-time. The good news is that we have time to live holy and devout lives as we await Jesus’ return.
In the gospel, Mark introduces his story of Jesus. In eight short verses Mark tells the purpose of his writing and introduces Jesus’ prophetic forerunner:
- Purpose of Mark’s story. Mark titles his story “The beginning of the proclamation (or good news) about Jesus the messiah.” Mark’s first word–“beginning”–is the same word that opens Genesis. Mark may be suggesting his proclamation (or gospel) offers a new beginning or a new creation to everyone.
- The one who prepares the way. Mark quickly introduces John, who is preaching and baptizing in the wilderness. John, a prophet like Isaiah and Elijah, preaches metanoia. The Greek verb μετανοέω (meh-tah-noh-EH-oh) means “to turn one’s mind/heart away from one thing and towards another.” Many bibles translate metanoia as “repentance,” but that translation is too weak. Metanoia is about conversion, turning to God. True metanoia brings forgiveness, which is the beginning of the kingdom of God.
Today’s readings call RCIA participants and the believing community to hear the good news and to change our hearts and minds. Isaiah announces that God is with us and we must straighten our ways. The second reading tells us that God is giving us the time we need to turn toward holiness and devotion. Mark’s gospel proclaims a new beginning that starts with our metanoia. Today’s three readings describe different ways God enters into human history to be with us–in covenant, through incarnation, and at the end time. God-with-us is good news that is undescribably good and always new. During Advent will we take time to consider how good the good news is? Or will we let the season’s busyness ensure that God’s news never reaches our daily lives? Metanoia is our choice: where will we turn? How will we turn out?