First Reading: Isaiah 40: 1 – 5, 9 – 11. Second Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8 – 14. Gospel: Mark 1: 1 -8.
In 1492 Ferdinand granted Columbus great titles, vast privileges, and a tenth of the riches his
explorations materialized. By 1500, when the size and wealth of the new world actually dawned
on Ferdinand. In the early 1950’s the Russians opened sixty-million acres in Kazakstan to grain
farmers. They imported trainloads of Russians, Ukrainians, and Byelorussians to work the state
–owned cooperative, planning to be self-sufficient in grain by 1954. The communist party
promised to bring the future to its people. the people believed in vain. “The party made
promises and brought hope,” one man said, ‘then the party vanished leaving broken promises and
In the liturgy of the word today prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s promise to send the Saviour. The
way will be sure and secure. The Lord is coming with power.
In the second reading. St. Peter reminds us that we wait for new heaven and a new earth. He
assures the Christians that God’s promise may be slow for a day can mean a thousand years. It
may come fast like a thief in the night. But the promise is sure.
In the Gospel, St. Mark indicates that God’s promise is authentic and trustworthy. God
understands that we live in hope and that, deprived of hope, our spirit diminishes and then dies.
God has encouraged us to believe in His promises, which never fail; but we are intent on
believing our own, which seldom succeed. Greed, false economic theory, political or social
collapse can destroy well-intentional assurances. God’s promises will not fail, for they are
founded on Him. According to God’s promise, John the Baptizer appeared in the wilderness
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’ John baptized and preached
God’s promise. He foretold God’s promise – the Messiah who would baptize with the Holy
John the Baptist could be the central figure in today’s homily. He prepared the minds of people in
his circle to welcome the bringer of salvation. That is how God seems to work: sending the
message of salvation and meaningful living to us through each other. St Paul once asked two
vital questions, “How can people know about God if they have never heard? and how can they
hear if nobody is sent to them?” So the vocation to proclaim or preach religious truth is vital, if
God is to be known and loved.
Jesus found his first disciples among those who heard John the Baptist preach. It was John who
showed them the value of self-control and of prayer, who urged them to listen to the inner voice
of God, with a contrite and faithful heart. The high point of John’s short ministry was meeting
with Jesus. Not only did he baptise Our Lord but he sent some of his own followers to join the
Jesus movement. Through him, Andrew and his brother Peter, and Philip and Nathanael became
God still wants us to help help other people to know and love him. If we were more committed as
Christians, maybe we could do more to influence others towards faith in God. Parents can
introduce their children to God, with words about trust and prayer. But their words will only be
effective if built on the example of their actual life. In all sorts of way, people are in position to
influence others, for good or ill. This is clearly so for those who work in the communications
media, press, radio and T.V. But ordinary people doing ordinary jobs can also influence the
views and values of those they interact with. In light of today’s portrayal of John the Baptist,
does our way of speaking and behaving help others to share our values, or do we confirm their
suspicion that this world is a selfish and cynical place?
The call of John the Baptist is challenging but, ultimately, it is a consoling word, because the
Lord to whom John calls on us to turn our hearts is not one who is here to judge us. Rather, he is
one who has come to heal and renew us. The voice crying in the wilderness is, ultimately, a voice
of consolation. In the opening words of Isaiah in today’s first reading, ‘Console my people,
console them. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.’ At the end of that reading, Isaiah declares, ‘Here
is the Lord coming with power.’ The word ‘power’ can have negative connotations for us. It can
suggest some kind of overbearing presence or a determination to dominate. Yet the power of the
Lord that Isaiah speaks about is of a different kind altogether. He is like a shepherd feeding his
flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast, and leading to their rest the
mother ewes who are soon to give birth. This is a very tender power; it is the power of a faithful
and enduring love, a love that gathers and nurtures and gives rest. This is the God whom John the
Baptist invites us to rediscover this Advent. It is this God who comes to us in the person of Jesus
of Nazareth. In the gospel, the Baptist refers to Jesus as ‘more powerful than I am.’ He is the
more powerful one, in the sense that the first reading defines power. It is Jesus who gives full
expression to God’s tender love that brings healing to the broken, strength to the weak and rest to
the weary. It is this adult Jesus, now risen Lord, whose coming towards us and present to us we
celebrate at Christmas. The Baptist calls us this Advent to prepare a way in our lives for the
coming of this Lord, this Shepherd, in whom, as the Psalm says, mercy and faithfulness have
met, justice and peace have embraced. This is the one we are called to meet this Advent, who can
give meaning and depth to all our other encounters.
Being a Christian mean believing in God, and believing in Jesus as the Son of God. But more
precisely it means believing that the power of God is at work in our world. God has begun and is
continuing the process of redemption. To get things right on a personal level can take a long
time. In caring for children, caring for aging parents, in marriage, in family in friendships.
Advent gives us hope to persist in our efforts to make life better. On a wider level, it seems
impossible to make difference. We can sometimes feel overwhelmed by world events and by
forces and pressures that shape our work and life. Today’s liturgy of the Word of God gives us
hope. God’s power will continue to work in the world until it is made new. Our work and efforts
to spread the kingdom of God Christ on earth is sanctified and enlivened and made effective by
the redeeming power of God.