Sunday, 7 December 2014

Advent Week 2 (Year B) Sunday - 7 December 2014

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

The Never-Ending Story is a book in which the reader becomes a character in the story told by the book. The Gospel of Mark is set up in the same way, as a book in whose story we find ourselves to be characters. Today we read 'the beginning' of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. But where does it end? Famously, Mark's gospel has a number of endings. The one accepted by biblical scholars - 'they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid' (Mark 16:8) - seems like a strange way for good news to end. It is startling, and dramatic, and forces us to ask 'but what happened next ...?' Well, what happened next was (is) the Church, the community of disciples, the resurrection and the sending of the Spirit, the time of the Church. We, and our lives, are the continuation of the good news about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark's gospel has an open ending, on to the life of those who come to believe in Jesus and to follow him.

So we are not just readers or spectators, we are characters in this story. Our waiting is to some extent a pretend-waiting, like hide and seek, for He is already here, among us. But it is also a real waiting for we are not fully with Him. Our hearts are towards Him, if we believe in Him, but they are towards other things too. 'Speak to the heart of Jerusalem' is the Jerusalem Bible's translation of Isaiah 40:2 (the RSV has 'speak tenderly to Jerusalem'). Let us bring the Jerusalem Bible translation alongside John the Baptizer's telling us that the one who is coming 'will baptize you with the Holy Spirit' (Mark 1:8).

This giving of the Spirit is the fulfillment of prophecies, those of Joel 2:28 for example. It is the time of the new covenant and the new law about which Jeremiah speaks. This covenant will be sealed, Jeremiah says, in a circumcision of the heart (Jeremiah 4:4), and the law attached to it is written not on stone but, once again, on the heart (Jeremiah 31:33). If we enter the story, the story also enters us, through the gift of the Spirit that we have received, the law written on the hearts of those who believe.

There is a danger that we will simply understand the word 'heart' psychologically, an important level of experience in us but not the deepest level of experience in us. The Spirit searches our 'heart of hearts', as we say, a place deeper than our thoughts, feelings and imaginings, the place where faith, hope and charity abide.

We continue to look for Him to come more mightily in us, and more tenderly, for His power is always expressed as tenderness and compassion. We hope this Advent that by the power of the Spirit, the Word of God will fall on good soil in our hearts so as to produce a rich harvest.

You will find here another homily for this Sunday

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