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From Word to Eucharist

This procession is the high point of our week, but something is still missing. Let us recall our proclamation: “until you come again.”

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Fr. Tony’s Homilies

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1st & 2nd Reading
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Faith Sharing,
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Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
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Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCATENA AUREA

Commentary

2B Advent

Pastoral resources from the National Catholic Reporter
OVERVIEW

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

A meta-dream

By: Sr. Mary M. McGlone

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. What’s the line that sticks with you? Is it “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” or “Every valley shall be exalted”?  That might be the test of whether you are more a fan of Godspell or Handel’s Messiah. Those two show us how popular culture picks up on Scripture and brings it into mainstream consciousness. (Yes, Handel started out as part of 18th-century popular culture.) Once we get out of the realm of music, those two lines could summarize the message of this Second Sunday of Advent.

“Prepare ye the way!” What’s the call in that? John the Baptist, one of the Christian Scripture’s most colorful characters, got people’s attention with that message. We quote him as saying “repent,” but the word he used wasn’t quite so puritanical. John didn’t call for self-incriminating scruples but for a radical open-mindedness. The Greek word is metanoia, coming from meta which means “beyond” and nous which refers “to the mind.” Thus, metanoia can be seen as a call to go beyond our typical or “normal” mindset. It speaks of a change in our vision of life that will bring about a transformation of the way we live.

The Gospel tells us that everybody was flocking to John at the Jordan to confess their sins and go through John’s cold-water, cleansing dunk. If we imagine that scene with the excesses of crowds and enthusiasm Mark describes, we will get quite a picture. The crowd’s confession of sin wasn’t at all what we think of as a recitation of transgressions — and there was nothing private about it. It was a communal and enthusiastic public demonstration in which groups of people got excited about the idea that life could be much better than it was. Their confession said, “We’ve settled for less, but no more!”

The corollary to that confession, what brought it about and what it was intended to lead to, was a dream about how things could be. Isaiah offered people a vision of a world without the divisions and barriers symbolized by valleys and mountains. Everything that plagued people, families and nations would be smoothed out. The whole world would see how good God is. All peoples would learn that the power of God is the power of love, that God enters history not as a warrior but like a shepherd.

Mark doesn’t spell out John’s version of that dream in the ways that Matthew and Luke do. Mark cuts to the quick and says John preached three things: repentance, forgiveness and the coming of one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Mark often gives us the Cliffs Notes version of the Gospel, an approach that challenges us to spell out the details in the ways most appropriate to our own time and place.

This year, the Second Sunday of Advent comes exactly in between two great feasts of Mary: the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe. The feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary as the first one redeemed by Christ; we might think of her as the first fully human person in history, the one who fulfilled all her potential as a child of God, a fully self-giving collaborator with the plan of God. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe brings the Gospel message uniquely home to the Americas. In  celebrating La Morenita (as she is fondly called in Spanish-speaking cultures), we celebrate the fact that the Incarnation implies inculturation. Just as the word took flesh in the first century, Our Lady of Guadalupe is a visible image of Christianity’s ability to express itself in the signs and symbols, the language and culture of every people on earth.

The Second Sunday of Advent invites us to a meta-dream. Isaiah and the images of the Blessed Virgin give us a vision of what life can be like. We are created with the potential to share divine life, to share the joy of being part of a humanity at peace, smoothing out what divides us and rejoicing in the multiple ways our different cultures can incarnate the love of God. We will never make it happen if we don’t first imagine it. The call to repent is a call to let go of our puny expectations. The promise of forgiveness tells us that God will never condemn us to remain trapped in the selfishness we have chosen. There is always more possibility.

Finally, the promise of Christ’s gift of the Holy Spirit tells us that we, like Mary, can be overshadowed by God and become bearers of Christ’s presence in our world. The glory of the Lord can be revealed in us and among us. Let us open our minds and hearts and prepare the way of the Lord.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
PLANNING

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

By: Lawrence Mick

Today’s readings seem to continue last week’s themes. John the Baptist calls for repentance and echoes Isaiah’s call to prepare the way of the Lord. But Isaiah begins by proclaiming God’s comfort for Jerusalem, for her guilt is expiated. Once again, repentance leads to joy. In other strong passages, St. Paul proclaims that God is patient with us so that we have time to repent, and Isaiah reminds us of God’s gentle love: “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.”
That quote will lead many musicians to choose “Like a Shepherd” for Masses this weekend, while the Baptist’s call is echoed in several Advent songs.

Planners should resist the temptation to use Christmas songs during Advent, even though they are being played in malls and street corners and on the radio and in Christmas concerts throughout December. We cannot control secular society (there is no point in berating people for commercializing Christmas), but we should be faithful to our own tradition in keeping Advent as a time to prepare. Let Advent be Advent! We need the time to prepare for the actual feast of Christmas.

If you didn’t have a penance service last week, today’s Scripture texts could be used to shape one for this week. Try to find ways to invite people to gather for reconciliation, as a time to prepare their hearts for Christmas but also as a time for joyful thanksgiving for God’s constant mercy. I suspect that our success in helping people appreciate this sacrament properly will advance in direct proportion with people coming to really appreciate God’s constant mercy and love. In the midst of all the pre-Christmas rush, invite them to gather for an evening of reflection and prayer leading to reconciliation and peace.

Planners might remember that Advent is a good time for lament. Lament is a common theme in the psalms. Prayers of lament complain to God about the evils and troubles we face and then ask God for help in dealing with them. That could be a simple format for the petitions this weekend. Identify current problems and concerns and present them to God to seek divine assistance.

If your community is used to varying responses to the petitions, either half of today’s psalm response might work well: “Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” You could even sing the whole refrain as a response. Musicians might also look for songs that cry out for God’s justice and peace, like “O Come Divine Messiah” or “Comfort, Comfort, O My People” or “Come, O Long Expected Jesus.”

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved.
PRAYERS

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B)

By: Joan DeMerchant

Introduction

Today’s readings urge us to prepare for and be open to God’s presence in our lives. We have been taught that this presence is ongoing, yet it doesn’t always seem so. We need to work to overcome fear and doubt, especially in challenging times, but the task need not be a frantic effort. These readings carry warnings and longings, but the operative words are comfort, tenderness and hope. We wait and prepare because of the promise.

Penitential Act

  • Lord Jesus, you were promised in times of great turmoil: Lord, have mercy.
  • Christ Jesus, you were foretold by John the Baptist: Christ, have mercy.
  • Lord Jesus, you call us to prepare for your coming into our lives: Lord, have mercy.

Prayer of the Faithful

Presider: We pray for and await God’s loving presence to all who are in need of comfort.

Minister: For the whole church, that we may be open to God’s loving, tender presence in our lives … in hope and anticipation, we pray

  1. For all people throughout the world whose lives need a gentle sign of tenderness or comfort … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  2. For the will to shower compassion and loving kindness upon those we judge to be different or difficult … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  3. For those who believe God has abandoned them, that they may find reason for God’s  promise of newness and life … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  4. For healthcare workers and social workers, counselors and pastors and all who work to provide comfort to those in need … in hope and anticipation, we pray
  5. For a spirit of quiet hope in this community, especially among the sick, the dying and the grieving … in hope and anticipation, we pray

Presider: Gentle, yet powerful God, we need the comfort that you alone can bring. In these challenging times that often cause fear and anxiety, let us not lose sight that you are with us. Bless us as we look for your presence amid all we experience during this holy season. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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GOSPEL

MK 1:1-8

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. — Mark 1:4

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CREDIT:  Detail form Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1665/66), a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo in The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.
RELATED: St. John the Baptist is represented in isolation, as a hermit in the desert. His clothing is referred to in the Gospels: roughly knitted camel’s hair that covers half of his legs and arms, and a goatskin girdle at his waist. The red mantle was sometimes added as a symbol of his glorious martyrdom. In middle age, with a long beard, dishevelled hair and bare feet, his body and face bear the marks of his life of penance led in the desert. Considered by the evangelists as the last of the prophets, he announced the coming of the Messiah, so his personal and constant attribute is the Agnus Dei or Divine Lamb. He is presented as a model of conventual life. (Source: Google Arts & Culture)

REFLECTIONS

  • Fr. Clement: John comes as God’s messenger. Another comes with fire!
  • Sr. Mary: “In the beginning”
  • Fr. Eamon:  John the Baptist’s call of repentance

FOCAL THEMES

  • Theology of Work: The beginning of Mark’s Gospel
  • Life Recovery: John the Baptist’s belief in a power greater than himself

BIBLE STUDY

  • Sermon Writer: John the Baptist
  • Agape: Repent and prepare for the coming of the Lord!

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1ST READING

IS 40:1-5, 9-11

commentary

Prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! — Isaiah 40:3

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CREDIT: ME Construction News  - Moving mountains: How the UAE’s highest road was built (October 19, 2016)
EXCERPT:  “This is the most visited area in the country outside of the cities because it is special in terms of the landscape, the weather and the sights it offers,” Vaezi says. “Also, it is all very well to say an area belongs to the country but if you cannot reach it, it’s as good as not being there. With this road, we have provided access to an area of the country that was inaccessible. This road has actually made the UAE bigger.” Hauling away tons of excavated rock, debris and blasted mountainside from the Jebel Jais road construction site, Volvo’s F-series articulated haulers have proven to be among the star performers of the project.

REFLECTIONS

  • Fr. Clement: God comes with power and gentleness
  • Sr. Mary: God’s involvement in human history
  • Fr. Eamon:  Comfort, give comfort to my people

FOCAL THEMES

  • Theology of Work: NA
  • Life Recovery: God never gives up on us

BIBLE STUDY

  • Sermon Writer: Prepare the way of Yahweh
  • Agape: God is coming to free his people

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PSALM

PS 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

"Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven." — Ps 85:12

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CREDIT:  USCCB Catholic Current Resources for December
RELATED: NA

COMMENTARY

  • Life Recovery: God help us regain control

BIBLE STUDY

  • Agape: God’s salvation

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2ND READING

2 PT 3:8-14

"The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar the elements will be dissolved by fire" — 2 Peter 3:10

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CREDIT:  2020 Labor Day weekend fires engulfed a Yakima River railroad bridge in the state of Washington. (RT&S)
RELATED: NA

REFLECTIONS

  • Fr. Clement: We live godly lives and hasten the day of God’s coming
  • Sr. Mary: God’s timing and thinking are different than ours
  • Fr. Eamon:  The importance of a Christian’s moral rectitude

FOCAL THEMES

  • Theology of Work: The end of the world and the end of work?
  • Life Recovery: Waiting on God; Being and becoming

BIBLE STUDY

  • Sermon Writer: One day is as a thousand years
  • Agape: The Lord’s coming

First Reading

2B Advent

commentary

Prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! — Isaiah 40:3

IS 40:1-5, 9-11

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Prepare the way of the Lord!

  • The reading from Isaiah was written at the end of the Babylonian exile.
  • The prophet helps the people imagine their return from exile and the restoration of their land.
  • Like the Exodus from Egypt, this new exodus from Babylon will reveal to all humankind the glory of the Lord.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

REFLECTIONS

IS 40:1-5, 9-11

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

God comes with power and gentleness

FIRST READING—Today’s quotation is taken from the so-called Second Isaiah (Chapters 40-55), a section which is known as the Book of Consolation. It was written during the Babylonian Exile (c. 550 BCE) and promises God’s power to restore Israel to its homeland.

The message is about highway building, making straight and level the road that leads to Jerusalem. God himself is coming to travel that road. The highway will be God’s own highway. The people will travel that road with God on their return home.

The time of their exile is over; God will live among them again. Great comfort will ensue, along with joy and fearlessness. That is the “good news.”

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

God’s involvement in human history

FIRST READING—This selection from Isaiah sets the direction for today’s readings as a reflection on God’s involvement in history. Isaiah wrote from a particular worldview, a theology that believed that God directly controls the events of human history. If the people prospered, God was blessing them; if they were in exile, God was punishing them. They deserved their punishments, but God’s wrath would not endure forever, and whatever happened, everything was under God’s direct rule.

Most of us probably do not share that perspective. While we may pray for good weather and peace on earth, we believe that human agency has a direct, causative effect on whether people starve and nations go to war. In recent decades, we have become much more aware of the effects of human behavior on the weather itself. How are we to understand readings like today’s selection from Isaiah?

Perhaps the line we concentrate on should be “Prepare the way of the Lord.” We hear that from Isaiah and then John the Baptist repeats the refrain. How do we prepare the way of the Lord? The question leads us to ask how we have experienced God’s presence in and influence on history — our own personal history as well as that of the world.

What distinguishes Judaism, Islam and Christianity from other world religions is our belief in God’s involvement in human history. All three traditions envision God as the Creator, the giver of all life. Christianity gives that kind of faith a unique focus through belief that Jesus Christ offers us God’s ongoing invitation and potential to participate in the eternal life of divine love. That tells us the deepest meaning of “give comfort to my people.” Paul taught us this in Romans 8, and Ignatius of Loyola explained it with his injunction to find God is all things. The bottom line is that we believe in Emmanuel, God with us. That’s all the comfort we could ever want.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

Comfort, give comfort to my people

FIRST READING—Last week’s First Reading was from “Third Isaiah.” This week’s reading is from “Second Isaiah” (chs. 40-55) by the prophet who preached to the Israelites during their time in exile in Babylon. While in exile, the people most likely believed that God had forgotten them. They may have lost hope in God. The role of the prophet is to restore hope by announcing that their time of punishment is coming to an end.

Comfort, give comfort to my people says the Lord . . .her service is at an end her guilt is expiated . . .

Using the imagery of the Exodus, the prophet paints a glorious picture of God’s intervention to save his people from slavery. The people will return in a glorious procession.

In the second half of the Reading, the scene moves to Jerusalem, a city broken and depleted. Jerusalem is told to announce to the other cities of Judah the glorious event that is about to happen.

The words “make straight a highway for the Lord” will be reiterated by John the Baptist to call his people to repentance.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

TIPS FOR READERS

IS 40:1-5, 9-11

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Paul J. Schlachter

Today, a week after Advent officially started, I am presented with words that could most fittingly open the season, words with which Handel began The Messiah.  Indeed I can take my cue from that oratorio and its forthright style.

I hear three oracles that are loosely connected, and that build toward encounter with God in Zion.  The first message is as clear and assuring as can be.  Comfort, give comfort.  I hear these encouraging words of deliverance, placed in God’s  voice, and I will find the way to bring them up to date for our congregation.

Then comes another voice that cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord!  I think of the vast road building projects of the Roman Empire and the Camino Real in Spanish America, each of which linked scattered populations with the great metropolis.  Today we remember those who were scattered after the Babylonian exile, and God’s command for them to return to the Promised Land.  I will use my voice today to remind our own scattered people to walk home in spirit through filled in valleys, lowered mountains and hills, and flattened plains.

Finally we acknowledge the presence of God with the whole people in Jerusalem: Here comes with power the Lord God.  Why shouldn’t I dare to Cry out at the top of your voice?  Amid the secular noise of pre-Christmas that ends in mere exhausted emptiness of yuletide glitter, we bear witness to the God who is always present with the people of the covenant.

High point: It comes at the beginning with the repetition of Comfort, give comfort.

Climax: A new and more imposing theophany than the people ever knew in the days of the two kingdoms.  Here is your God!

Message for our assembly: Let us regain our focus on the faithful God who came to share our humanity, at a time when we are exceedingly distracted by other worldly tasks.

I will challenge myself: To catch the cry of comfort, to make it infectious for my listeners by sustaining my own joy.

READ MORE by Paul at Lector Works
Greg Warnusz

INTRODUCTION FOR LISTENERS:

As their exile in Babylon ended, the people of Judah prepare to return home. Although a welcome change, the return will be a difficult, frightening journey. The second of the prophets we know as Isaiah gives reassuring words. In the last paragraph, the scene changes to nearly empty Jerusalem, where a sentinel sees God leading the exiles home.

ORAL INTERPRETATION:

An excellent way to prepare to proclaim this is to listen to the same verses as interpreted by George Frederick Handel, in his oratorio Messiah (1742). Within the first nine short “pieces” of the Messiah, you’ll hear all these verses, set to various kinds of music, each appropriate to the text of the verses.

However you prepare, reckon with the rich array of emotions and images. Pause when there’s a change in emotion or image. Modulate your voice. To revisit the classical music metaphor, note that Handel didn’t render these verses in a single recitative. You shouldn’t either. Rather imitate the composer, who wrote several different melodies and assigned them to a wide variety of voices.

Pause a long moment before beginning the last paragraph (verse 9), because the scene has changed. Now we’re in Jerusalem, or on a hill overlooking it. The character is a sentinel who, after about sixty years of waiting, sees the returning exiles come over the horizon, God marching at their head. The watchman cannot contain his excitement!

READ MORE by Greg at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

IS 40:1-5, 9-11

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Theology of Work Commentary

No commentary for this week

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Life Recovery Bible

God never gives up on us

Is 40:1-5 After the judgments of chapters 1–39, God’s message to his people is one of comfort and blessing. God never gives up on us, no matter how bad the things we have done. The punishments will end, and God will restore us to a loving relationship with himself. To join him in a relationship means to clear out the obstacles in our life: sin, pride, addiction, hypocrisy, greed. When those obstacles are dealt with, we are free to become the people God wants us to be.

Is 40:9-17 When we doubt God’s power, we need to remember that he is the Creator and will “rule with a powerful arm.” He has perfect wisdom and is greater than any person or nation. When we doubt that God can really help us overcome our dependency, we need to remember that he is bigger and more powerful than anything on earth. And this God is also compassionate and loving. He will carry us (his lambs) in his arms and “gently lead” us down the road to recovery because he loves us.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

IS 40:1-5, 9-11

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Prepare the way of Yahweh

Prepare the way of Yahweh

“The voice of one who calls out” (v. 3a). We are not told who the voice is. It is the message that is important—not the voice that cries out.

“Prepare the way of Yahweh in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God” (v. 3b). We have been expecting that Yahweh would prepare a highway through the desert for these exiles to return to Jerusalem. What we find, however, is the opposite—Jerusalem is to prepare a highway for God. Two questions come to mind. First, why would God need these people to prepare a highway for him? Second, how should they go about the task?

We must not approach this poetic language literally. God does not need these people to wield shovel and pick-axe to create a highway through the desert for him. It is the wilderness of their lives and the desert of their hearts that require preparation. If they are to prepare for the Lord’s coming, their preparation must involve some sort of spiritual discipline, such as prayer and the reading of scripture—such as proper worship and pure lives. The voice does not specify the form that their preparation should take. It is enough for these exiles to know that they must prepare for the Lord’s coming. Their history and traditions will teach them how to do that.

But Achtemeier understands this verse as a call by one heavenly being to other heavenly beings. In her view, it is the responsibility of these heavenly beings to prepare the highway for God to return to his people (Achtemeier, 328).

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low” (v. 4a). Today we see road builders accomplish this kind of task routinely. Huge machines lower hills by scooping buckets of dirt. They then deposit this dirt in valleys to raise them. As a result, we travel in air-conditioned cars through mountain passes, barely noticing whether we are going uphill or downhill. But that has been true only for a few decades. Mountains and gullies still provide profound challenges for those who have no heavy equipment.

But these hills and valleys are poetic metaphors for the spiritual obstacles that have stood in the way of God’s return to these exiles. It is the obstacles of sin and lack of faith that must be removed so that the Lord can return to take his place among them once again.

“The uneven shall be made level, and the rough places a plain” (v. 4b). This is another way of expressing the same thought—that the people must smooth out the uneven ground and the rough places in their lives in preparation for the Lord’s coming.

“The glory (kebod) of Yahweh shall be revealed (v. 5a). The word glory (kebod) is used in the Bible to speak of various things, but is used especially to speak of God’s glory—an aura associated with God’s appearance that reveals God’s majesty to humans. Biblical writers, attempting to describe God’s glory using human words, portrayed it as “a devouring fire” (Exodus 24:17). When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God replied, “You cannot see my face; for man may not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20)—but God continued, “Behold, there is a place by me, and you shall stand on the rock. It will happen, while my glory passes by, that I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you will see my back; but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:21-23). The point is that God’s glory is so overwhelming that humans aren’t engineered to be capable of experiencing it. An analogy might be coming into contact with a live high-voltage electrical line. It would be too much for us.

“and all flesh (basar—flesh) shall see it together” (v. 5b). This is a surprise. The vision of God’s glory that was denied to Moses shall be granted to “all people” or “all flesh.” If Moses had seen God’s glory, he would have died, but the implication here is that “all people” will see God’s glory and live. The vision won’t be limited to the Jewish people—or great Godly leaders like Moses—or great saints like Mother Teresa. We ordinary folk, too, will see God’s glory.

Some scholars suggest that this will be an eschatological vision of God’s glory—a vision that will be granted only in the last days. While it is true that we will all see God’s glory at the end of time, it is also true that Jesus “has broken down the middle wall of partition” that created privileged and unprivileged groups (Ephesians 2:14) and has admitted us into God’s presence. Now everyone can see the glory of God—Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female (Galatians 3:28).

“for the mouth of Yahweh has spoken it” (v. 5c). This is our guarantee that this will happen. Yahweh has spoken, and Yahweh’s word has the power to accomplish that which it speaks. Yahweh’s word is trustworthy. Yahweh keeps his promises—a fact that is apparent in the fact that he is now working to redeem these sinful people so that he might honor the covenant promises made so much earlier to Abram.

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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commentary

God is coming to free his people

FIRST READING—In today’s First Reading, after the harsh oracle of the exile, God instructs Isaiah to console the people by assuring them, that while they are making atonement for their sins in exile, He will not abandon or forget them. He reminds them that God is Israel’s Divine Shepherd who cares for the sheep of His flock. He will forgive their sins and bring about the release of His people from their captivity. God will prepare the way for their return to their homes in the Promised Land, gently leading them like a shepherd leads his flock. He will not only restore them to the land, but He will restore the peace of His covenant relationship with them.

Exploring the Text

Intro to the Book of Consolation (Chapters 40-55)

This passage begins what most Biblical scholars see as the second part of the Book of Isaiah (chapters 40-55), traditionally called the Book of Consolation. The Assyrians destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel and exiled the ten northern tribes in 722 BC. When the Southern Kingdom failed to repent, God allowed the Babylonians to take Judah’s covenant people into exile in 587/6 BC, after burning Jerusalem and Yahweh’s holy Temple to the ground. God used the Assyrians and Babylonians as His instruments of judgment in response to the peoples’ many sins, including idol worship and their apostasy from the Sinai Covenant. Before the terrible event of the exile took place, God, speaking through Isaiah, warned the people of the coming divine judgment if they failed to repent their sins. In this poem, God reassures His covenant people that in their time of trial, He will not forget them. God tells His prophet to comfort His people with the promise that the day will come when they will have atoned for their sins “twice over” (verse 2). Their exile in Babylon will end, a way will be made for their return, and He will restore them to their land and the fellowship of their covenant relationship with Him.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
A voice cried out

The prophetic voice in verses 3-5 is deliberately left unidentified by the prophet.  But the writers of the Gospels, who quote from this passage, identify the prophetic voice as St. John the Baptist (Mt 3:3; Mk 1:3; Lk 1:76; 3:4-6; Jn 1:23).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The mountain of Zion

“Zion” refers to the covenant people (see the document “Zion and the Presence of God“).   The “high mountain” refers to Mt. Moriah, the site of the Jerusalem Temple the Babylonians would destroy.  It was also the future site of the restored Temple after the people’s return from exile that is a symbol of restored Israel.  When they return to their land, the people must shout the “good news” from the top of Mt. Moriah that God is faithful to His people and rewarded them for their unfailing faith in Him by leading them “home” with loving care like a shepherd leads his sheep.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Church as a sheepfold

In the New Testament, Jesus uses the imagery of a dedicated shepherd to the sheep of his flock in describing His relationship with His disciples (Jn 10).  The Church has continued to use the same imagery: “The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (Jn 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God himself foretold he would be the shepherd (Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-31), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds, are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf. Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4), who gave his life for the sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-15)” (Vatican II document, Lumen gentium, 6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Church as a sheepfold

In the New Testament, Jesus uses the same imagery [as Isaiah] of a dedicated shepherd to the sheep of his flock in describing His relationship with His disciples (Jn 10).  The Church has continued to use the same imagery: “The Church is a sheepfold whose one and indispensable door is Christ (Jn 10:1-10).  It is a flock of which God himself foretold he would be the shepherd (Is 40:11; Ez 34:11-31), and whose sheep, although ruled by human shepherds, are nevertheless continuously led and nourished by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and the Prince of the shepherds (cf. Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4), who gave his life for the sheep (cf. Jn 10:11-15)” (Vatican II document, Lumen gentium, 6).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): CREDIT: ME Construction News  - Moving mountains: How the UAE’s highest road was built (October 19, 2016)
EXCERPT:  “This is the most visited area in the country outside of the cities because it is special in terms of the landscape, the weather and the sights it offers,” Vaezi says. “Also, it is all very well to say an area belongs to the country but if you cannot reach it, it’s as good as not being there. With this road, we have provided access to an area of the country that was inaccessible. This road has actually made the UAE bigger.” Hauling away tons of excavated rock, debris and blasted mountainside from the Jebel Jais road construction site, Volvo’s F-series articulated haulers have proven to be among the star performers of the project.

Responsorial Psalm

2B Advent

"Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven." — Ps 85:12

PS 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

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Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation

Just as in the First Reading, God announces his salvation. God and his goodness are about to revisit his people.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

FOCAL THEMES

PS 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

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Life Recovery Bible

God helps us regain control

Psalm 85:1-3 It is hard enough to deal with the sins that have us entrapped; how much worse we make it by having to live with a bad conscience. Great relief comes when God helps us regain control and we realize that he has forgiven our sins. All we need to do is confess our sins to God and accept the forgiveness he offers.

SOURCE: Content taken from Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

PS 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14

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commentary and homily help

God’s salvation

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—The Responsorial Psalm addresses the refugees returning from exile, promising them the peace of the Messianic Age foretold by the prophets (i.e., Is 43:3-7; Is 49:14-26; Is 58:8-12; Zec 2:9, Zec 2:14-17; Zec 8:12-13; Zec 9:9-10).  The psalmist gives the assurance that there is salvation for those who fear the LORD [Yahweh], referring to those who fear offending God and live in reverent obedience to His commands.  The psalmist proclaims that salvation comes from God’s steadfast love.  He continually demonstrates His love by His willingness to forgive our sins and restore the peace that comes from our covenant relationship with Him.

Exploring the Text

The peace of the Messianic Age

The psalm promises the refugees returning from exile the peace of the Messianic Age foretold by the prophets (Is 43:3-7; 49:14-26; 58:8-12; Zec 2:9, 14-17; 8:12-13; 9:9-10).  The salvation promised to those who “fear” God refers to those who fear offending God and live in reverent obedience to His commands.  The psalmist uses the imagery of the fruit produced by rainfall coupled with the earth’s fertility, comparing it to the blessings of God’s justice and truth (Ps 85:11-12).  The psalmist proclaims that salvation comes through God’s steadfast love, demonstrated by His willingness to forgive our sins and to restore the peace of our covenant relationship with Him.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The promise of the incarnation

Many Fathers of the Church saw verses 10-11 as a promise of the Incarnation of the divine Word and the union of the Godhead with human nature in Jesus Christ.  Quoting from verse 10 of this psalm, St. Athanasius wrote:

“Truth and mercy embrace in the truth which came into the world through the ever-virgin Mother of God” (Expositiones in Psalmos, 84).

Jesus is God’s divine justice, and He came to grant the gift of salvation to all who walk in “the way of His steps” (Ps 85:12).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): CREDIT:  USCCB Catholic Current Resources for December
RELATED: NA

Second Reading

2B Advent

"The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar the elements will be dissolved by fire" — 2 Peter 3:10

2 PT 3:8-14

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Be holy in your conduct and devotion.

  • Many of the early Christian communities believed that Christ would return soon after his Resurrection.
  • The author of 2 Peter gives a stern warning to those who have given up on the return of Christ.
  • God does not work in human time.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

REFLECTIONS

2 PT 3:8-14

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

We live godly lives and hasten the day of God’s coming

SECOND READING—The last to be written of all the books in the Christian Testament (c. 110-115 CE), 2 Peter claims the growing authority of the long-since deceased Peter (c. 64 CE) to resolve disputes in the Church.

The Second Coming was being delayed. Why? Some were claiming there was no afterlife; some were claiming God had no power to punish or to reward. This author, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, asserts that the reason Christ has not returned yet is to give sinners more time to repent.

Just as God had allowed another thousand years to Adam after having said that he would die if he ate from the Forbidden Tree, so now, people have been given a respite so they can change their ways and return to God.

The letter shares the view of both the Jews and the Stoics at the time: the world will end in a conflagration of fire. But this letter goes beyond that view: it hopes in a new heaven and a new earth.

Christians are called to live good lives now so that Christ will not delay any longer.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

God’s timing and thinking are different than ours

SECOND READING—“With the Lord, one day is like a thousand years.” Isaiah has told us that God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts … my ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:9). Now the author of 2 Peter tells us that God’s watch is not on our time zone and God’s work in history ignores our chronology.

When this letter was written, one of the Christian community’s burning questions was why the end of the world was taking so long to come. The early Christians really thought that the final day of the Lord was about to dawn; they believed that creation would be transformed through a conflagration that would put an end to evil and its purveyors and bring the righteous home to eternal felicity in God. Then, as the dawn and dusk continued to follow one another with no apparent disruption, the skeptics began to mock the Christians for their historical naiveté and the moral code that flowed from their belief that the end was near.

The way Peter chose to deal with the Christian’s dilemma was not to talk about the end, but to talk about God. Peter wanted his people to stop concentrating on the chronology and to look at the theology. He asks “What are we to learn about God and ourselves from this unexpected prolongation of history?” The first answer is that God’s promise will be fulfilled. Just as surely as God raised Christ from the dead, the end of the apparent rule of evil will come about. God’s love and desire for life for everyone is the moving force of history, no matter what things may look like today.

The second part of Peter’s teaching reminds them that God is God and that they can’t predict when and how God will bring it all about. The only way they can make a difference is by living like people who are certain that God’s reign is in the process of fulfillment.

Understanding that underlying message allows us to see that even if we are not anticipating the immanent end of the world, the Second Letter of Peter has something to say to us. The reminder, that God’s time is different, reminds us of the larger truth about the limitations of our perspective compared to the sweep of history, much less in relation to God’s own vantage point.

This reading calls us to take time to think about what we really believe about where history is headed. Peter tells us that God is continually active, even if subtly, and drawing all things forward into the life that will not perish. If we believe that, Peter calls us to consider what it means for our way of living.

As the Second Letter of Peter draws to a close, we are invited to take the long view. We can’t manage God’s perspective. But we can amplify our own vision by faithfully remembering that the divine vantage point is larger than ours. When we have taken steps in that direction, when we remember that God is drawing all things toward the fullness of divine life, then all we need to do is move forward, eager to be ready for what God is preparing. It is greater than we can imagine, but if we do as Peter suggests by growing in holiness and devotion, we will find our imagination and joy growing as well.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

The importance of a Christian’s moral rectitude

SECOND READING—This Reading underlines the importance of a Christian’s moral rectitude as the proper disposition while they awaitthe Lord’s coming.

The awaited second coming of Jesus seems to be on hold. Why? Because, according to Peter, the Lord wants to give people more time to repent and prepare their lives for their ultimate encounter with God.

Using apocalyptic imagery, the author describes the demise of the old order and the creation of a new one. The redemption gained by Jesus impacts not only people, but all of creation.

Finally, Peter urges his fellow believers to live righteous and blameless lives.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

TIPS FOR READERS

2 PT 3:8-14

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Paul J. Schlachter

SECOND READING—

I share the scholarly consensus that this letter, although attributed to Peter, appeared long after that apostle’s death, and is one of the latest in the Bible.

The passage presents an alternative picture of the time to come from that contained in the first reading.  It cites several familiar images from the apocalyptic genre: the day of the Lord, the heavens passing away and the elements dissolved by fire.  I emphasize the fact that every-thing is to be dissolved, and as I do it I appeal to our general attachment to material objects and benchmarks.  I want to shift our attention to God’s time as I read.

From the beginning, we have held that this world will pass away and have hoped for the coming of Christ.  And so I dare to speak today of our deeper hope, with bold confidence and without a trace of fear mongering.

The calm conviction of my reading may lead to a more sober assent by my listeners, as they realize the need for holiness in conduct and devotion and a life at peace in God’s sight.  According to the apostle, it is a matter of the Lord’s coming but also our waiting for and hastening the coming.

Climax: We await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

The message for our assembly: We are encouraged to prepare the way by our lives of holiness and devotion, being always at peace with each other.

I will challenge myself: To aim not for terror but for a spirit of watchful waiting, for a new heaven and a new earth.

READ MORE by Paul at Lector Works
Greg Warnusz

INTRODUCTION FOR LISTENERS:

Corinth was a young, somewhat wild Christian community anxious about the imminent return of Christ to bring history to an end. Saint Paul reassures them by reminding them of the gifts that the Spirit of God has already given them. They’re ready, and God will keep them so.

ORAL INTERPRETATION:

The expectation that Christ would come again went unfulfilled for a long time. Some Christians began to doubt. This author explains that God reckons time differently, and gives ways to stay prepared.

SECOND READING—Study the passage sentence by sentence so you understand the author’s reasoning. Try expressing the message in your own words, even writing out your explanation if that will help. Then, if you read this slowly to the congregation, at least some members will be able to follow the logic, too.

Secondly, speak as vigorously as the author writes. There are powerful images here. Not once but twice does he predict the cataclysmic destruction of the heavens and the elements. This is not tepid prose, and the lector need not sound tepid. Afraid you’ll sound like an irreverent ham? Well, know that the acoustics and PA systems in most churches muffle most of your expressiveness. What sounds exaggerated in your own ears sounds expressive to the congregation, and that’s just right. If to yourself you sound “normal,” you probably sound bored and boring to the assembly. Do it vigorously. Try it once and take note of the compliments you receive after mass. You won’t go back to the old way.

READ MORE by Greg at LectorPrep.org

FOCAL THEMES

2 PT 3:8-14

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Theology of Work Commentary

The end of the world and the end of work? (2 Peter 3:1-18)

SECOND READING—Does our earthly work matter to God? Darrell Cosden has given a resounding “yes” to that question. Central to his argument is the bodily resurrection of Jesus, which (1) affirms the goodness of the material world, (2) demonstrates that there is continuity between the present world and new creation, and (3) is a sign that new creation, while not fully realized, has been initiated. Our work is ultimately valuable because the fruits of our labor, having been redeemed and transformed, will have a home in heaven. But chapter 3 seems to call into question two integral aspects of Cosden’s theology of work: (1) the inherent goodness of cre­ated matter, and (2) the continuity between this present world and the world to come, the new creation.

Peter is responding here to lawless scoffers who claimed that God would not intervene in history to judge evil (2 Pet. 3:3–4). He appears to describe a future that lacks all continuity with the present world; instead, it looks like the annihilation of the cosmos:

  1. “The present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless.” (2 Pet. 3:7)
  2. “The heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.” (2 Pet. 3:10)
  3. “All these things are to be dissolved.” (2 Pet. 3:11)
  4. “The heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire.” (2 Pet. 3:12)
  5. But we should not be too quick to assume that annihilation is re­ally in view here.[2] Peter is using the end-times imagery commonly found in Old Testament prophetic oracles to assure his readers of God’s impending judgment. The Old Testament prophets and Second Temple Jewish literature regularly employed fire imagery metaphorically to refer to both the purging of the righteous and the destruction of all evil.

A reading of 2 Peter 2:7, 10 and 2 Peter 3:12 in keeping with the conventions of apocalyptic literature, would understand the fire and melting imagery as a metaphor for the process in which God separates good from evil.[4] This is how Peter uses fire imagery in his first letter, reminding his readers that, like gold, they too will be tested through fire; those who make it through the fire will be praised and honored by God (1 Pet. 1:5–7). These passages stress not that the heavens and the earth will be literally annihilated, but rather that all evil will be ut­terly consumed. Likewise, Peter carefully describes the world in terms of transformation and testing: “dissolved,” “melt with fire,” “judgment,” “reserved for fire.” Douglas Moo points out that the word Peter uses for “dissolved” in 2 Peter 3:10–12, luō, does not connote annihilation, but instead speaks to radical transformation. He suggests that an alternate translation might be “undone.”[5]

Peter’s reference to the flood of Noah’s time (2 Pet. 3:5–6) should caution us against reading “deluged” to mean total annihilation. The world did not cease to exist, but was purified of all humanity’s wicked­ness. Humanity’s goodness—limited to Noah, his family, their posses­sions, and their work of tending the animals on board—was preserved, and life resumed on the physical earth.

Finally, Peter’s positive vision of the ultimate future describes a re­newal of the material order: “But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home” (2 Pet. 3:13). This is no thin, disembodied netherworld, but a new cosmos that contains both a “heaven” and an “earth.” In 2 Peter 3:10 we read that “the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.” Disclosed, not destroyed. Thus even after the burning, “works” will remain.

This is not to say that 2 Peter is the chief source for the theology of the eternal value of present work, but only that 2 Peter is consistent with such a theology.[6] While we may not receive as much detail as we would want, clearly for Peter there is some sort of continuity between what we do on earth now and what we will experience in the future. All evil will be utterly consumed, but all that is righteous will find a permanent home in the new creation. Fire not only consumes, it purges. The dissolution does not signal the end of work. Rather, work done for God finds its true end in the new heavens and new earth.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

Life Recovery Bible

Waiting on God

2 Peter 3:3-9 It is difficult to wait on God, particularly when he seems so slow in bringing about our healing. Why doesn’t God return for us now? Why does he allow further suffering and frustration? The answer is simple yet profoundly full of love: God is patient! He wants all to come to him and discover the only true way of salvation and life. As we wait, we can trust that it is always for a good purpose.

Being and becoming

2 Peter 3:10-16 We live in a world that encourages and rewards our active lifestyle. We are doers and fixers, arrangers and controllers. We seek to bolster our sense of self-esteem by the things we do. When Christ returns, however, who we are will be far more important than what we do. Peter reminds us that as we wait for this day, we are called to be God’s people. It is good to take time to ask, Am I enjoying the privilege of being? In all my doing, have I lost sight of what’s important—the kind of person I am, and the person I am becoming?

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

2 PT 3:8-14

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One day is as a thousand years

“One day is as a thousand years“

“But don’t forget this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (v. 8). This is the first of two arguments that Peter raises to counter the claim of the false teachers regarding Christ’s Second Coming. He alludes to a psalm that says, “For a thousand years in your sight are just like yesterday when it is past, like a watch in the night ” (Psalm 90:4). His point is that, because God sees things from a different perspective, it is sometimes difficult for us to understand his timing.

Consider how Abraham and Sarah must have felt about God’s timing. God had promised Abraham, “Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them…. So shall your seed be.” (Genesis 15:5). God had said, “You will be the father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4). However, at age ninety-nine, Abraham had as an heir only Ishmael, his son by his concubine Hagar. Sarah was also old, so it was apparent that they were no longer candidates for having a child. Abraham laughed when God told him that Sarah would bear a child (Genesis 17:17)—and Sarah laughed when she heard the news (Genesis 18:12). The idea was laughable, because God had missed his chance. Abraham and Sarah were too old to have another child. But God blessed them, and they did have a child—Isaac—the child of their old age. Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born (Genesis 21:1-7).

People not only have difficulty understanding God’s sense of timing, but also it difficult to appreciate the time-frame of other people. Parents are familiar with the wail from the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?” The parent might try to encourage the child by saying, “We’re almost there!” However, the remaining hour that the parent sees as a short time is likely to seem like a very long time to the child. When our children were young, I decided that the most humane answer was, “No, it’s going to be quite a while before we get there.” While that answer disappointed, at least it didn’t raise false hopes.

“The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some count slowness; but is patient (Greek: makrothymeo) with us, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (v. 9). This is Peter’s second argument in favor of Christ’s Second Coming. The delay that these Christians have experienced is due to God’s makrothymeo—his patience—his forbearance. God has delayed the Second Coming to give people an opportunity to hear the Gospel—to repent—to be baptized—to be saved. The delay, then, has been due, not to God’s failure to fulfill his promise, but rather to God’s love.

The idea of God’s forbearance is rooted in the Old Testament. God is “ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17; see also Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; Joel 2:13).

The New Testament continues that theme. God “desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus said, “Unless the Lord had shortened the days, no flesh would have been saved; but for the sake of the chosen ones, whom he picked out, he shortened the days” (Mark 13:20). He said that it “is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes in him, should have eternal life” (John 6:39).

But that doesn’t mean that God will stay his hand forever. The Day of Judgment will come. On that day, “God will judge the secrets of men” (Romans 2:16). The righteous will be saved, but the unrighteous will suffer eternal punishment.

Exegesis Outline

Second Reading Exegesis

  • 2 PETER 3:8-9. ONE DAY IS AS A THOUSAND YEARS
  • 2 PETER 3:10-13. THE DAY OF THE LORD
  • 2 PETER 3:14-15a. BE DILIGENT TO BE FOUND WITHOUT BLEMISH
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Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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commentary

The Lord’s coming

SECOND READING—In our Second Reading from St. Peter’s second letter to the universal Church, he warns us that the promised sudden return of Jesus Christ can happen at any moment. The Second Advent of Christ only seems delayed because God, in His mercy, allows time for the entire earth to hear the Gospel message of salvation.

Using the imagery of a roaring fire and a cosmic meltdown, the inspired writer describes the Second Coming of Christ when He will return as humanity’s divine Judge and inaugurate a new creation. The old world will pass away, and God will create a new Heaven and earth in which every living thing will flourish in righteousness in the Presence of the Almighty.

The knowledge that Christ could come in judgment at any moment should instill in each of us a desire to repent our sins and to persevere in holiness so that He will find us in a state of grace at the moment of His inevitable coming.

Exploring the Text

Christ's promised return delayed

In this letter to the universal Church, St. Peter reminds the faithful that God does not reckon time as we do; time is an invention for the earth-bound (verse 8). Christ’s promised return only seems delayed because God, in His mercy, allows humanity the time necessary for the entire earth to hear the Gospel message of salvation (verse 9). The knowledge that Christ could come in judgment at any moment should instill in each of us a desire to repent our sins and to persevere in holiness so that we will be found in a state of grace when He returns.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Images of roaring fire and cosmic meltdown

In 2 Peter 3:10-12, using imagery of a roaring fire and a cosmic meltdown, the inspired writer describes the Second Coming of Christ when He will return as humanity’s divine Judge (see Dan 7:13-14; Rev 20:11-15). It is the event in which the old world will pass away, and God will create a new heaven and earth in which everything that is living will flourish in righteousness in the Presence of the Almighty (verses 13-14). Our cry should be, “Oh Lord, grant that we may be counted among the righteous at the moment of Your return!”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Gospel Reading

2B Advent

John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. — Mark 1:4

MK 1:1-8

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I send my messenger before you.

  • Mark’s Gospel begins the story of Jesus by introducing John the Baptist, describing him with phrases from Isaiah (40:3), Malachi (3:1), and Exodus (23:20).
  • John is also portrayed as Elijah, the great northern prophet of the ninth century B.C., who called Israel back to fidelity to Yahweh.
  • Pictured with images of every precursor of exodus and deliverance, John preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

REFLECTIONS

MK 1:1-8

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau

John comes as God’s messenger. Another comes with fire!

GOSPEL—Mark introduces an entirely new form of literature: a gospel, meaning good news. Perhaps the most original of all the Christian Testament writers, Mark creates a new vehicle to carry the message of a uniquely new event: Jesus the Christ, Son of God. The word gospel was used in Greek by secular writers to mean the good news of the birth of a new emperor, for example. For Mark, the Good News is not merely about Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus the Christ is the Good News. The book consists of narratives and sayings. It is not merely a biography. It is a proclamation that this Jesus truly is the Son of God. So, the title of the book!

A messenger from God was expected to announce that the “end”was at hand. Something entirely new was to be introduced by God. Many in Israel truly believed that a divine intervention was about to occur. The community at Qumran surely thought so. Ritual baptisms were practiced there and by other Jews to signify a complete change in the direction of one’s life. Converts from the Gentile world were ritually washed clean when they entered Judaism.

John the Baptist asserts that mere physical descent from Abraham is not enough to assure salvation. People must repent. Repentance means more than just being sorry for one’s sins. It means a completely new way of living, a radical about turn, a transformation at the very core of one’s existence. Since the re-creating power of God is required for this profound transformation to take place, John speaks of baptism in the Holy Spirit. The bath of water given by humans will not reach deeply enough. “One greater than I”is a code expression for the intervention of God himself.

As Christians, we live in the present moment, convinced that God is to be found in the concrete experience of the here and now. We have no other time in which to lead a real life. The present is the sacrament that enables us to encounter the God of all creation. But we live in a present which has a past and will have a future. We recall the past out of which Christ first came among us, and we look forward to the future when the Risen One will come again in glory.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone

“The beginning”

GOSPEL— The first word of Mark’s Gospel is “the beginning” (arche). That’s a grand word to start with. The book of Genesis begins with the same word. Mark did that on purpose. By echoing Genesis 1:1, Mark indicates that what he is about to tell us is as momentous as the moment of creation itself.

The verse has a second, more subtle function as well. Mark’s original Gospel ended at Chapter 16, Verse 8. (For further information on the Gospel ending, see the notes at the USCCB website.) Referring to the women who had discovered the empty tomb it says: “They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Scripture scholar and Blessed Sacrament Fr. Eugene LaVerdiere used to point out that those two verses interpret one another and everything in between. In the first line of his Gospel, Mark announced that what he was about to tell was only “the beginning.” After Christ’s resurrection, it was up to the disciples whether or not the story would continue to be told. It was up to them — it is up to us — to overcome fear and carry on what began in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Mark quickly moves from the philosophical to the historical, telling us that what is starting in this story is related to all that God has done in the past. John the Baptist fulfills the role of the one Isaiah described as crying out in the wilderness and preparing for all that God was about to do. Mark didn’t say that as a proof text, a way of saying “Isaiah foresaw all that was going to happen when John went to the desert, therefore you must believe in it.”

The point Mark is making is that what happened with John and then Jesus was a part of the divine plan that had been unfolding from the beginning and was in tune with everything that God had said and done through the prophets. The events of the Gospel were not a breach in history, but the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan.

By opening his Gospel this way, Mark was alerting his readers that he was reading the signs of the times in the light of their religious tradition. By calling this the beginning, he was implicitly telling them that they too, were called to do the same. The first line of Mark’s Gospel tells us that all that happened with Jesus was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan for history. It also calls us to continue with what was begun, to read the signs of our times in order to discover the imprint of God’s ongoing activity among us.

After that, Mark tells us what John did. He called for repentance, metanoia, that attitude of being willing to turn ourselves inside out, to see with new eyes, to acknowledge that we have allowed ourselves to be far less than we could be. John’s baptism was a sign of that confession and a plea for forgiveness.

Then came the announcement: “One mightier than I is coming.  … He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” That is the real beginning that Mark was signaling. More than ever before, God was going to be active in history through the ministry of Jesus, the one through whom the Spirit would become active in believers.

The Gospel of John presents all of this philosophically or mystically, explaining it through beautiful discourses. Mark goes at it simply and directly. Both are trying to introduce the Christian community into the faith that with Christ, everything has changed. The obvious implication is, therefore, that everyone can change as well.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Fr. Eamon Tobin

John the Baptist’s call of repentance

GOSPEL—Every year on the Second and Third Sundays of Advent, we encounter John the Baptist calling people to prepare for the Messiah by repentance. John is seen as the messenger whom Isaiah spoke about in the First Reading.

As the people respond to John’s call to repentance, they are baptized with water—an outward sign of an interior cleansing occurring in their soul.

Then John speaks of his subordinate role:

“One mightier than me is about to come, One who will baptize them with the Holy Spirit.”

John’s diet of locusts (grasshoppers) and honey would have reminded his audience of the two traditional symbols of judgment and comfort. Locusts are considered as instruments of divine judgment because of their fierce punishing power (Ex.10:4), whereas honey signifies peace, plenty and blessing.

  • For those who open their hearts to John, his message will bring the ‘honey’ of peace and joy.
  • On the other hand, those who refuse to receive the truth of his message will experience the devouring ‘locust’ of divine judgment.
©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

TIPS FOR READERS

MK 1:1-8

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Paul J. Schlachter

GOSPEL—

The beginning of Mark is obvious to everyone: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Mark opens with a prophecy (As it is written…) and finishes with its fulfillment (John the Baptist appeared…).  This pattern is typical of all the Gospels, and I can vary my presentation to make these two sections evident.

All the Gospels begin the narration of Jesus’ public life with John the Baptist.  Mark makes it clearest of them all that John lived in the desert and renounced worldly comforts to await the Lord’s coming.  I hear these details: clothed in camel’s hair, meals of locusts and wild honey.

But most of all I hear John’s message: a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Two things went together and should always be so: the people were being baptized by him as they acknowledged their sins.

I hear that a lot of people went to John: the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I note that here no one goes with the intention of challenging John, as the other evangelists report.  And this, despite the novelty of John’s ministry of cleansing outside of the temple ritual.  It is more closely connected with prophetic imperatives (hear the quotes from Malachi and Isaiah) than with Torah prescriptions.  I should express surprise and fascination with his innovative ministry.

The Climax comes early, from John’s tie-in with the ancient prophecy: A voice of one crying out in the desert.  I’m not so concerned with the correct grammar (look at the first reading today) as I am with the direct and controversial actions of John along the Judean frontier.  I hear a second climax in the final verse, in which John announces the coming mission of Jesus, with actions that are equally innovative and controversial because they also take place outside the temple ritual: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

Message for our assembly: The church, following in John’s steps, invites us to seek an inner and outer cleansing of mind and body, in all times and places.

I will challenge myself: To make this gathering of the poor of Israel along the Jordan ring with significance for those members of my congregation who have not had the chance to really listen to this reading until now.

READ MORE by Paul at Lector Works

FOCAL THEMES

MK 1:1-8

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Theology of Work Commentary

The beginning of Mark’s Gospel

GOSPEL—The accounts of John’s preaching and of Jesus’ baptism and temptation say nothing directly about work. Nevertheless, as the narrative gateway to the Gospel, they provide the basic thematic context for all that follows and cannot be bypassed as we move to passages more obviously applicable to our concerns. An interesting point is that Mark’s title (Mark 1:1) describes the book as “the beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ.” From a narrative point of view, drawing attention to the beginning is striking, because the Gospel seems to lack an ending.

The earliest manuscripts suggest that the Gospel ends suddenly with Mark 16:8, “So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” The text ends so abruptly that scribes added the material now found in Mark 16:9-20, which is composed from passages found elsewhere in the New Testament. But perhaps Mark intended his Gospel to have no ending. It is only “the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ,” and we who read it are participants in the continuing Gospel. If this is so, then our lives are a direct continuation of the events in Mark, and we have every reason to expect concrete applications to our work.

We will see in greater detail that Mark always portrays human followers of Jesus as beginners who fall far short of perfection. This is true even of the twelve apostles. Mark, more than any of the other Gospels, presents the apostles as unperceptive, ignorant, and repeatedly failing Jesus. This is highly encouraging, for many Christians who try to follow Christ in their work feel inadequate in doing so. Take heart, Mark exhorts, for in this we are like the apostles themselves!

John the Baptist (Mark 1:2-11) is presented as the messenger of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. He announces the coming of “the Lord.” Combined with the designation of Jesus as “Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1), this language makes clear to the reader that Mark’s central theme is “the kingdom of God,” even though he waits until Mark 1:15 to use that phrase and to connect it to the gospel (“good news”). “The kingdom of God” is not a geographical concept in Mark. It is the reign of the Lord observed as people and peoples come under God’s rule, through the transforming work of the Spirit.

SOURCE: © 2014 Theology of Work Project, Inc.; Used with permission. (Licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.)

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Life Recovery Bible

John the Baptist’s belief in a power greater than himself

Mark 1:1-13 Only belief in a Power greater than ourself can restore us to sanity. That’s how John the Baptist saw Jesus—as one far greater than he was. Jesus demonstrated his great power through victory over Satan and his temptations. This should encourage us as we face our own temptations. With his help, we can stand up to anything. Under our own power, we are helpless against the power of our dependency. We can tap into God’s power by making a conscious decision to turn our back on sin (1:4) and by entrusting our life to God’s care.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

BIBLE STUDY

MK 1:1-8

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John the Baptist

John the Baptist

The angel Gabriel, who will appear to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, first appeared to Zechariah, John’s father, to announce John’s birth (Luke 1:5-25). The story is reminiscent of the announcement of Isaac’s birth to Abraham and Sarah in that both couples were elderly, surprised, and somewhat doubtful. John’s mother, Elizabeth, was related to Mary, Jesus’ mother, and became pregnant with John six months before Mary became pregnant with Jesus (Luke 1:36).

John and Jesus were surely well acquainted, and must have played together as children. Being six months older may have given John some advantage in their earliest years, but he apparently recognized Jesus’ superiority even prior to their births (Luke 1:39-45).

The angel who announced John’s birth required that John never touch strong drink, and promised that, even before his birth, he would be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15). The prohibition of strong drink is one of the requirements of a Nazarite vow, the other requirements being that the Nazarite not cut his or her hair and that he/she not touch a dead body (Numbers 6:1-8). Most Nazarite vows were taken for a period of time, but (if Luke 1:15 means that John is a Nazarite) John was one of the few lifelong Nazarites.

John was raised in the wilderness (Luke 1:80), was called by God in the wilderness (Luke 3:2), preached in the wilderness (Mark 1:4), and was most likely imprisoned and died in the wilderness at Machaerus (Josephus, Ant. xviii 5.2). His imprisonment and death were the result of his rebuke of Herod for taking his brother’s wife, Herodius, who schemed successfully to have John beheaded (6:16-29).

John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah—to make his paths straight (1:3). He did this by preaching in the wilderness, where he attracted great crowds, by calling people to repentance, by baptizing, and by heralding the one who was to come.

Jesus said of John that he was Elijah (9:13; cf. Matthew 17:12-13). He also said, “Most certainly I tell you, among those who are born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptizer; yet he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11).

John had disciples of his own during his lifetime, and a number of these disciples maintained their devotion to John long after John’s death. Acts 19:1-7 tells of Paul’s encounter with a dozen of John’s disciples in Ephesus about thirty years after John’s death. Paul reminded them that John had come to point the way to Jesus, after which they submitted to baptism “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” However, the persistence of John’s disciples made it necessary for Jesus’ disciples to emphasize Jesus’ priority.

Copyright 2014, Richard Niell Donovan
Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

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commentary

Repent and prepare for the Coming of the Lord!

GOSPEL—In today’s Gospel Reading, St. Mark tells us that Israel’s historic deliverance from the Babylonian exile prefigures an even greater act of God. It is the promise of redemption made possible for humanity by the Redeemer Messiah, announced by the prophetic voice of the last Old Testament prophet, St. John the Baptist.

Quoting from the Isaiah passage in our First Reading, St. Mark assures us that God the Son came to fulfill the promises of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus came to set Israel and the men and women of all nations free from bondage to sin and death. In the Age of Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church, His mission continues in saving the faithful living in this earthly exile.

The Church gathers them into a full restoration of fellowship with God and the hope of a future life in the Promised Land of Heaven. It is a restoration that Christ will complete in His Second Advent, and we need to continually keep our souls in a state of grace in preparation for the glorious event of His return.

Exploring the Text

Echo of Genesis

Mark 1:1 The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. – The Gospel of St. Mark, like the Gospel of John, echoes the opening words of Genesis, In the beginning (Gen 1:1). It is an echo of God’s original creative design. The Advent of the Messiah is a new beginning and destined to become a new creation event.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' identity: Messiah and Son of God

Mark’s statements concerning Jesus’ identity in the first three verses of Mark’s Gospel are unique compared to the other Synoptic Gospels. St. Mark does not leave the reader to wonder about the truth of Jesus’ identity. He tells the reader in the first line that Jesus is both the Messiah promised by the prophets and the Son of God!

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Key Word: 'Gospel'

The first keyword St. Mark uses in verse 1 is the Greek word euangelion is the root of the English word “evangelize,” which means “good news.” Old English renders it in as “god-spel” or “gospel.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word is basar, translated euangelion in the LXX (Greek translation of the Old Testament). English versions of the Old Testament often translate the word as “glad tidings” or “good news.” The Greek word euangelion was a common term in the ancient Greco-Roman world and usually referred to a military victory, public festivals associated with a royal birth, or a king’s coronation. The Hebrew Scriptures use the word to proclaim the “good news” of God the Divine King’s rule, salvation, or vindication (see Is 40:9 LXX; 41:27; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1). However, St. Mark uniquely uses the noun to describe the mission of Jesus Christ, the promised Davidic Messiah. The “good news” is that Jesus is the Son of God!

That Jesus is the Messiah and “Son of God” is the “good news,” but His mission is also to proclaim the “good news.” The “good news” He came to announce is the coming of the Kingdom of God (see Mk 1:14-15 and Mt 4:17). There is no contradiction because Jesus is the Kingdom Incarnate, as He will declare to the Pharisees when they question Him about when the Kingdom of God will come. He will tell them: “The Kingdom of God is among you” (Lk 17:21).

The Gospel of Mark repeats 14 times that Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God (1:14, 15; 4:11, 26, 30; 9:1, 47; 10:14, 15; 10:23, 24, 25; 12:34; 14:25). It is the “good news” prophesied by the prophet Isaiah in our First Reading:

  • Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! (Is 40:9)
  • And also by Isaiah in 61:1-2: The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me because the LORD has anointed me. He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and to release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD, and a day of vindication by God, to comfort all who mourn … (Is 61:1-2, also see 52:7).

Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2 from the LXX (Greek translation) in the homily He gave to the Synagogue in Nazareth when He announced: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:18-19).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Key word: 'Anointed'

The second keyword St. Mark uses in verse 1 is the Greek word Christos, which means “anointed” and is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Messiah = mashiah, “anointed one.” Prophets, priests, and kings were the three holy offices where God’s divinely appointed agents were ritually anointed with holy oil (see Ex 29:7; 1 Sam 10:1; 2 Sam 24:7; 1 Kng 19:16; Ps 2:2). Jesus came to fulfill all three holy offices (CCC 436, 783). Notice that St. Mark uses “Jesus Christ” as a proper name, as will St. Paul in his letters.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Key word: 'Son of God'

St. Mark also identifies Jesus as the “Son of God.” Mark’s declaration that the Messiah is the “Son of God” could be understood in two different ways by his audience. Jewish Christians knew that Sacred Scripture used the title for one who enjoyed a special relationship with the Almighty:

  • Angels/heavenly messengers, in Greek angelos, are called “sons of God” (Job 1:6, 2:1, 38:7).
  • In the plural, the covenant people were understood to be sons and daughters of God individually (Wis 2:13, 18; 5:5; Hos 11:1; Jer 31:20). Expressed in the singular, they were collectively the “sonship” of the children of Israel (Ex 4:22; Is 1:2; Jer 3:19; Hos 2:1).
  • The Davidic heir, according to the Davidic covenant, received the title “son of God” at his enthronement (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chr 17:13; 22:9-10; Is 9:5; Ps 2:7; 89:27; 110:3).

St. Mark announces that Jesus is both the Messiah and the Son of God, defining Jesus as the promised Davidic heir (promised by the prophets in Is 11:10-12; Jer 23:5-6; Ez 34:23-26; 37:25-28). According to the prophets, the Messiah was to come from the lineage of the great King David in fulfillment of the eternal covenant God made with David and his heirs. Every Davidic heir was to be considered a “son” of God. The covenant was unconditional and promised that David’s throne would endure forever (i.e., 2 Sam 7:11b-16; 23:5; 1 Kng 2:4; 11:9-20; 1Chr 22:10; 2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25; 47:2, 11/13)

The Roman Gentiles, who were not familiar with Christian doctrine, might connect the title “son of God” with Emperor Tiberius. They called him “son of God” because he was the heir of his deified adopted father, the former emperor, Augustus Caesar. In Jesus’ day, the Roman denarius coin bore the image of Emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD) and the Latin inscription “Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest” (Harrington, Gospel of Matthew, page 310). The title “son of God” for Romans reading Mark 1:1 probably suggested that Jesus is also the son of a God-King.

In the New Testament, the title “Son of God” takes on a meaning not previously conveyed in the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus is the ideal king of Israel (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 2:7; 89:26-29), the chosen people of God (Ex 4:22; Is 63:16; Hos 11:1). In the New Testament, the title expresses Jesus’ unique relationship with God as the Father’s “only begotten Son” (Jn 1:18). It won’t be until 1:11 that St. Mark reveals that Jesus is a divine Son who is entirely man and God. It is for this reason that Jesus deserves the title “Son” of God both in His divinity as God’s “only begotten Son” and in His humanity as the Davidic heir and rightful King of Israel. Significantly, St. Mark will place these two titles: Christ/Messiah and Son of God, on the lips of first a Jew and then a Gentile at two points of climax in his narrative: St. Peter in Mark 8:29 and a Roman soldier in Mark 15:39. The title “Son of God” will become increasingly significant as St. Mark’s narrative unfolds (1:1, 11; 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 14:61; 15:39). We know that Jesus is the Messiah, who is the Son of God because Mark told us in 1:1. However, as the narrative continues, Mark will allow the reader to see how other people exposed to Jesus’ ministry will make the discovery and either accept Jesus as Lord or reject His messiahship.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Mark quotes the prophets Malachi and Isaiah

Quoting the prophets Malachi and Isaiah (from our First Reading), Mark tells his readers that there is a God-appointed messenger/forerunner promised by the prophets. God sent the messenger, and the voice of the messenger repeats God’s message. In the prophecy, God speaks as “I” to “you,” saying: “I send my messenger before your face” (literal translation). The one addressed is to make a journey down the “way” to prepare it for “the Lord.” The “you” addressed by God in verse 2 is “the Lord” in verse 3.

Mark attributes the prophecy to Isaiah in verse 2, but the text he quotes is a combination of prophecies from the 6th-century BC prophet Malachi and the 8th-century BC prophet Isaiah. Mark combines the prophecies from Malachi and Isaiah to provide the words of God that begin the narrative and witness to the coming of the “One” who is “Lord” (Kyrios in Greek). Kyrios is a word in the LXX (Greek Septuagint Old Testament translation) used consistently to translate the Divine Name YHWH (Yahweh). The theme of “the way” (verse 3) will have a significant place as the narrative progresses. “The Way” will become the first name for the community of Jesus Christ disciples (Acts 9:2; 18:25-16; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22) before the faith community at Antioch adopted the title “Christian” (Acts 11:26).

Malachi is the last of the prophets in the Old Testament books and the last to announce the Messiah’s coming. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that St. John the Baptist is the prophetic voice crying out the prophetic words of God in the Judean wilderness (Mt 3:1-3; Mk 1:2-4; Lk 3:2-6). Please note that the inspired writers expect the reader to be familiar with the entire passage when they quote parts and fragments of Scripture verses. St. Mark quotes from the first part of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3:

  • Malachi 3:1 ~ Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. And suddenly, the Lord whom you seek will come to his Temple; yes, the angel [messenger] of the covenant for whom you long, is on his way, says Yahweh Sabaoth (NJB).
  • Isaiah 40:3 ~ A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway [pathway] for our God!

God sent Malachi to the covenant people after returning from the Babylonian Exile in the late 6th century BC. He prophesied that God would send a messenger who will come to the people in the spirit of the prophet Elijah to announce the coming of the Messiah (Mal 3:1, 23-24). Isaiah was the prophet of the 8th century BC who foretold God’s judgment against a sinful and rebellious people that would result in exile. But Isaiah also prophesied an eventual restoration. In Isaiah 40:3, from our First Reading, the prophet refers to “the way of the Lord” as the end of the Babylonian exile, the restoration of the covenant people, and the coming of the Messiah.

St. Mark identifies the unnamed prophetic voice in Isaiah’s prophecy. He declares it is the prophetic voice of John the Baptist, who announces the Messiah’s message of salvation. St. John was more than a prophet. In him, the Holy Spirit concluded His speaking through the prophets (CCC 719). Jesus honored St. John, saying, among those born from a woman “none is greater than John,” but adding that “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than him” (Mt 11:11; cf. Lk 7:24-30)

Jesus of Nazareth fulfills all the prophecies as the promised Messiah and Davidic king. It is a fulfillment statement Jesus will make to the Apostles and disciples after His Resurrection: Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them what referred to him in all the Scriptures (Lk 24:27), and He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled” (Lk 24:44).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Ritual immersion for repentance

In Luke 4:1, St. Luke sets the date of the beginning of St. John’s ministry as AD 28 in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. In verses 4-6, Mark recounts the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise in the one chosen to prepare the way for the Messiah. In omitting the nativity, infancy, and youth of Jesus, St. Mark makes his Gospel begin directly with the preaching of St. John the Baptist who, on the east side of the Jordan River (Jn 1:28), was offering a ritual immersion (the meaning of the word “baptism”) for repentance and forgiveness of sins (Mt 3:6; Lk 3:3). The ritual of water immersion was a religious practice for purification from that which made one ritually unclean and unfit for worship (Num chapter 19). It was a bath of purification for Jewish brides on their wedding day and for Gentiles who converted to become members of the covenant people (Ex 19:9-11).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
John the Baptist's mission

The angel Gabriel defined St. John the Baptist’s mission to John’s father in Luke 1:5-17, 36. John is the son of a priestly family, a descendant of Aaron, the first high priest of the covenant people, and, therefore, also a priest. The Holy Spirit consecrated St. John in the womb of his mother and gave him the power of the spirit of the prophet Elijah to announce the coming of the Son of God. His mother was a kinswoman of the Virgin Mary, and therefore, John is also a kinsman of Jesus. The Baptist is the last old covenant prophet God sent to prepare the way for the Davidic Messiah and Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. However, John is greater than the prophets who came before him; he is the prophetic voice announced by Isaiah in the First Reading. In John, the Holy Spirit completes the cycle of prophets that began with Elijah. John’s mission is to proclaim the imminence of the consolation of Israel as the “voice” announcing the Consoler who is coming: “As the Spirit of truth will also do, John came to bear witness to the light” (CCC 719). Through John’s baptism of repentance, the Holy Spirit begins to complete the longing of the prophets.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
John the Baptist's age

St. Luke’s Gospel records that John is six months older than Jesus (Lk 1:36), which means he is five months older than Jesus as we count. The ancients counted the first month of pregnancy counted as month #1, and, therefore, a woman was said to be pregnant for ten months (see Wis 7:1-2). The difference in how the ancients counted (without the concept of a zero place-value) is why Scripture records that Jesus was in the tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday instead of two days as we would count the days (Mt 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 13:32; 18:33; 24:7, 21, 46; Jn 2:19; Acts 10:10; 1 Cor 15:4).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
John the dress and diet

Significantly, St. Mark describes St. John’s manner of dress and meager diet in verse 6. The people coming to John for his ritual cleansing by water saw that he dressed like the great 9th-century BC prophet Elijah. When the angel Gabriel announced John’s birth, he told John’s father that the prophet Elijah’s spirit and power would reside in his son. According to Malachi’s prophecy, the people knew the return of the prophet Elijah would signal the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, they would have seen the connection between Elijah and the way John dressed. What he ate was also significant. John lived a life of privation in the desert. Still, he was religiously observant of the Law of Moses’ dietary laws and consumed food that was ritually clean according to the Law (see 2 Kng 1:8; Lev 11:22; Lk 1:17).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Jordan River

It is also significant that St. John called the covenant people to a baptism of repentance from their sins on the east side of the Jordan River (Jn 1:28). It is where the hero Joshua (Yahshua in Hebrew or Yehoshua in Aramaic, which is Jesus’ name) led the children of Israel across the Jordan River from the east to the west into the Promised Land. And it is where the prophet Elijah, whose spirit rests upon John the Baptist, was taken up into heaven (see Josh chapter 3; 2 Kng 2:5-12).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
John the Baptist's testimony

In verses 7-8, the one described in verses 2-3 speaks, announcing the coming of the One before whom he is unworthy and who “will baptize with the power of the Holy Spirit.” The Baptist is calling the people to repent their sins in preparation for the ministry of Jesus the Messiah and Son of God, and the coming of His Kingdom. John testifies that Jesus is greater because He is the Son of God (cf. Mt 3:11-12; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:34). Notice that Mark presents the Baptist according to his mission: he points the way to God the Son, and then he fades away to give prominence to Jesus.

I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
To untie a master’s sandals was considered such a demeaning task that it was not a requirement for a Jewish slave (Jewish Talmud: Mek. 21:1; b Ketub. 96a). “To be unworthy” of such a task would be to lower oneself below the status of a slave (Maloney, Gospel of St. Mark, note 39, page 66).

8 I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
Notice that “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” is in the future tense. The baptism of the one who is coming is not the same as John’s baptism of repentance. The 6th-century BC prophet Ezekiel promised a baptism by the Holy Spirit in the name of God as a future gift in the Messianic Age (Ez 36:25-27). So, while the promise of the gift is not new, the announcement of the one who will provide it is new. This announcement excited the people who came to accept St. John’s ritual cleaning, and they would have connected the promise of this future divine gift with the coming of the promised Davidic Messiah.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Application for us today

The message for the Church today is that we must respond to God like the covenant people in exile in the First Reading and the people of Jesus’ generation who submitted to St. John’s call for repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah in the Gospel Reading. We must continually turn back to God through the repentance of our sins. We must call upon God to show us His mercy, forgiving our sins and restoring us to fellowship with Him. If we submit to God in this way, when Christ returns as King and Judge, He will find us, as St. Peter advised, “conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion” (2 Pt 3:11). In that case, we will be ready for the Good Shepherd to collect His Church and take us to the New Jerusalem of His heavenly Kingdom.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): CREDIT:  Detail form Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness (1665/66), a painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo in The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square.
RELATED: St. John the Baptist is represented in isolation, as a hermit in the desert. His clothing is referred to in the Gospels: roughly knitted camel’s hair that covers half of his legs and arms, and a goatskin girdle at his waist. The red mantle was sometimes added as a symbol of his glorious martyrdom. In middle age, with a long beard, dishevelled hair and bare feet, his body and face bear the marks of his life of penance led in the desert. Considered by the evangelists as the last of the prophets, he announced the coming of the Messiah, so his personal and constant attribute is the Agnus Dei or Divine Lamb. He is presented as a model of conventual life. (Source: Google Arts & Culture)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 CHURCH FATHERS COMMENTARY 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

Catena Aurea

2B Advent

St. Thomas Aquinas

MK 1:1-8

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

CHURCH FATHERS

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

CHURCH FATHERS

MK 1:1-8
TOGGLE BIBLE VERSES

1. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2. (Mal. 3:1) As it is written in the Prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, (Isa. 40:3) Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5. And there went out unto him all the land of Judæa, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
6. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
7. And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
8. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

JEROME. (in Prolog.) Mark the Evangelist, who served the priesthood in Israel, according to the flesh a Levite, having been converted to the Lord, wrote his Gospel in Italy, shewing in it how even his family benefited Christ. For, commencing his Gospel with the voice of the prophetic cry, he shews the order of the election of Levi, declaring that John the son of Zachariah was sent forth by the voice of an angel, and saying, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

PSEUDO-JEROME. The Greek word ‘Evangelium’ means good tidings, in Latin it is explained, ‘bona annunciatio,’ or, the good news; these terms properly belong to the kingdom of God and to the remission of sins; for the Gospel is that, by which comes the redemption of the faithful and the beatitude of the saints. But the four Gospels are one, and one Gospel is four. In Hebrew, His name is Jesus, in Greek, Soter, in Latin, Salvator; but men say Christus in Greek, Messias in Hebrew, Unctus in Latin, that is, King and Priest.

BEDE. (in Marc. i. 1) The beginning of this Gospel should be compared with that of Matthew, in which it is said, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. But here He is called the Son of God. Now from both we must understand one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, and of man. And fitly the first Evangelist names Him Son of man, the second, Son of God, that from less things our sense may by degrees mount up to greater, and by faith and the sacraments of the human nature assumed, rise to the acknowledgment of His divine eternity. Fitly also did He, who was about to describe His human generation, begin with a son of man, namely, David or Abraham. Fitly again, he who was beginning his book with the first preaching of the Gospel, chose rather to call Jesus Christ, the Son of God; for it belonged to the human nature to take upon Him the reality of our flesh, of the race of the patriarchs, and it was the work of Divine power to preach the Gospel to the world.

HILARY. (de Trin. iii. 11) He has testified, that Christ was the Son of God, not in name only, but by His own proper nature. We are the sons of God, but He is not a son as we are; for He is the very and proper Son, by origin, not by adoption; in truth, not in name; by birth, not by creation.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Being about to write his Gospel, Mark rightly puts first the testimonies of the Prophets, that he might notify to all, that what he should write was to be received without scruple of doubt, in that he shewed that these things were beforehand foretold by the Prophets. At once, by one and the same beginning of his Gospel, he prepared the Jews, who had received the Law and the Prophets, for receiving the grace of the Gospel, and those sacraments, which their own prophecies had foretold; and he also calls upon the Gentiles, who came to the Lord by publishing of the Gospel, to receive and venerate the authority of the Law and the Prophets; whence he says, As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, Behold, &c.

JEROME. (ad Pammach. Epist. 57) But this is not written in Isaiah, but in Malachi, the last of the twelve prophets.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. c. Cat. in Marc.) But it may be said that it is a mistake of the writer. Otherwise it may be said, that he has compressed into one, two prophecies delivered in different places by two prophets; for in the prophet Isaiah it is written after the story of Hezekiah, The voice of one crying in the wilderness; but in Malachi, Behold, I send mine angel. The Evangelist therefore, taking parts of two prophecies, has put them down as spoken by Isaiah, and refers them here to one passage, without mentioning, however, by whom it is said, Behold, I send mine angel.

PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. nov. et vet. Test. lvii.) For knowing that all things are to be referred to their author, he has brought these sayings back to Isaiah, who was the first to intimate the sense. Lastly, after the words of Malachi, he immediately subjoins, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, in order to connect the words of each prophet, belonging as they do to one meaning, under the person of the elder prophet.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or otherwise, we must understand, that, although these words are not found in Isaiah, still the sense of them is found in many other places, and most clearly in this which he has subjoined, The voice of one crying in the wilderness. For that which Malachi has called, the angel to be sent before the face of the Lord, to prepare His way, is the same thing as Isaiah has said is to be heard, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, saying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. But in each sentence alike, the way of the Lord to be prepared is proclaimed. It may be, too, that Isaiah occurred to the mind of Mark, in writing his Gospel, instead of Malachi, as often happens; which he would, however, without doubt correct, at least when reminded by other persons, who might read his work whilst he was yet in the flesh; unless he thought, that, since his memory was then ruled by the Holy Spirit, it was not without a purpose, that the name of one prophet had occurred to him instead of another. For thus whatsoever things the Holy Spirit spoke by the prophets, are implied each to have belonged to all, and all to each.

JEROME. By Malachi, therefore, the voice Πνεύμκτος Ἅγιου of the Holy Spirit resounds to the Father concerning the Son, who is the countenance of the Father by which He has been known.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) But John is called an angel not by community of nature, according to the heresy of Origena, but by the dignity of his office; for angel in Greek is in Latin, nuntius, (messenger,) by which name that man is rightly called, who was sent by God, that he might bear witness of the light, and announce to the world the Lord, coming in the flesh: since it is evident that all who are priests may by their office of preaching the Gospel be called angels, as the prophet Malachi says, The lips of the priest keep knowledge, and they seek the law at his mouth, because he is the Angel of the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 2:7)

THEOPHYLACT. The Forerunner of Christ, therefore, is called an angel, on account of his angelic life and lofty reverence. Again, where he says, Before thy face, it is as if he said, Thy messenger is near thee: whence is shewn the intimate connection of the Forerunner with Christ; for those walk next to kings, who are their greatest friends. There follows, Who will prepare thy way before thee. For by baptism he prepared the minds of the Jews to receive Christ.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or, the way of the Lord, by which He comes into men, is penitence, by which God comes down to us, and we mount up to Him. And for this reason the beginning of John’s preaching was, Repent ye.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) But as John might be called an angel, because he went before the face of the Lord by his preaching, so he might also be rightly called a voice, because, by his sound, he preceded the Word of the Lord. Wherefore there follows, The voice of one crying, &c. For it is an acknowledged thing that the Only-Begotten Son is called the Word of the Father, and even we, from having uttered words ourselves, know that the voice sounds first, in order that the word may afterwards be heard.

PSEUDO-JEROME. But it is called the voice of one crying, for we are wont to use a cry to deaf persons, and to those afar off, or when we are indignant, all which things we know applied to the Jews; for salvation is far from the wicked, and they stopped their ears like deaf adders, and deserved to hear indignation, and wrath, and tribulation from Christ.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e. Cat. in Marc.) But the prophecy, by saying, In the wilderness, plainly shews that the divine teaching was not in Jerusalem, but in the wilderness, which was fulfilled to the letter by John the Baptist in the wilderness of Jordan, preaching the healthful appearing of the Word of God. (non occ.). The word of prophecy also shews, that besides the wilderness, which was pointed out by Moses, where he made paths, there was another wilderness, in which it proclaimed that the salvation of Christ was present.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else the voice and the cry is in the desert, because they were deserted by the Spirit of God, as a house empty, and swept out; deserted also by prophet, priest, and king.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) What he cried is revealed, in that which is subjoined, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. For whosoever preaches a right faith and good works, what else does he but prepare the way for the Lord’s coming to the hearts of His hearers, that the power of grace might penetrate these hearts, and the light of truth shine in them? And the paths he makes straight, when he forms pure thoughts in the soul by the word of preaching.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, that is, act out repentance and preach it; make his paths straight, that walking in the royal road, we may love our neighbours as ourselves, and ourselves as our neighbours. For he who loves himself, and loves not his neighbour, turns aside to the right; for many act well, and do not correct their neighbour well, as Eli. He, on the other hand, who, hating himself, loves his neighbour, turns aside to the left; for many, for instance, rebuke well, but act not well themselves, as did the Scribes and Pharisees. Paths are mentioned after the way, because moral commands are laid open after penitence.

THEOPHYLACT. Or, the way is the New Testament, and the paths are the Old, because it is a trodden path. For it was necessary to be prepared for the way, that is, for the New Testament; but it was right that the paths of the Old Testament should be straightened.

PSEUDO-JEROME. According to the above-mentioned prophecy of Isaiah, the way of the Lord is prepared by John, through faith, baptism, and penitence; the paths are made straight by the rough marks of the hair-cloth garment, the girdle of skin, the feeding on locusts and wild honey, and the most lowly voice; whence it is said, John was in the wilderness. For John and Jesus seek what is lost in the wilderness; where the devil conquered, there he is conquered; where man fell, there he rises up. But the name John means the grace of God, and the narrative begins with grace. For it goes on to say, baptizing. For by baptism grace is given, seeing that by baptism sins are freely remitted. But what is brought to perfection by the bridegroom, is introduced by the friend of the bridegroom. Thus catechumens, (which word means persons instructed,) begin by the ministry of the priest, receive the chrismb from the bishop. And to shew this, it is subjoined, And preaching the baptism of repentance, &c.

BEDE. (in Marc. i. 2) It is evident that John not only preached, but also gave to some the baptism of repentance; but he could not give baptism for the remission of sinsc. For remission of sins is only given to us by the baptism of Christ. It is therefore only said, Preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; for he preached a baptism which could remit sins, since he could not give it. Wherefore as he was the forerunner of the Incarnate Word of the Father, by the word of his preaching, so by his baptism, which could not remit sins, he preceded that baptism, of penitence, by which sins are remitted.

THEOPHYLACT. The baptism of John had not remission of sins, but only brought men to penitence. He preached therefore the baptism of repentance, that is, he preached that to which the baptism of penitence led, namely, remission of sins, that they who in penitence received Christ, might receive Him to the remission of their sins.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Now by John as by the bride-groom’s friend, the bride is brought to Christ, as by a servant Rebecca was brought to Isaac; wherefore there follows, And there went out to him all, (Gen. 24:61) &c. For confession and beauty are in his presence, (Ps. 95:6. Vulg.) that is, the presence of the bridegroom. And the bride leaping down from her camel signifies the Church, who humbles herself on seeing her husband Isaac, that is, Christ. But the interpretation of Jordan, where sins are washed away, is ‘an alien descent.’ For we heretofore aliens to God by pride, are by the sign (symbolum) of Baptism made lowly, and thus exalted on highd.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) An example of confessing their sins and of promising to lead a new life, is held out to those who desire to be baptized, by those words which follow, confessing their sins.

CHRYSOSTOM. Because indeed John preached repentance, he wore the marks of repentance in his garment and in his food, wherefore there follows, And John was clothed in camel’s hair.

BEDE. It says, clothed in a garment of hair, not in woollen clothes; the former is the mark of an austere garb, the latter of effeminate luxury. But the girdle of skins, with which he was girt, like Elias, is a mark of mortification. And this meat, locusts and wild honey, is suited to a dweller in the wilderness, so that his object in eating was not the deliciousness of meats, but the satisfying of the necessity of human flesh.

PSEUDO-JEROME. The dress of John, his food, and employment, signifies the austere life of preachers, and that future nations are to be joined to the grace of God, which is John, both in their minds and in externals. For by camel’s hair, is meant the rich among the nations; and by the girdle of skin, the poor, dead to the world; and by the wandering locusts, the wise men of this world; who, leaving the dry stalks to the Jews, draw off with their legs the mystic grain, and in the warmth of their faith leap up towards heaven; and the faithful, being inspired by the wild honey, are full-fed from the untilled wood.

THEOPHYLACT. Or else; The garment of camel’s hair was significative of grief, for John pointed out, that he who repented should mourn. For sackcloth signifies grief; but the girdle of skins shews the dead state of the Jewish people. The food also of John not only denotes abstinence, but also shews forth the intellectual food, which the people then were eating, without understanding any thing lofty, but continually raising themselves on high, and again sinking to the earth. For such is the nature of locusts, leaping on high and again falling. In the same way the people ate honey, which had come from bees, that is, from the prophets; it was not however domestic, but wild, for the Jews had the Scriptures, which are as honey, but did not rightly understand them.

GREGORY. (Moral. xxxi. 25) Or, by the kind itself of his food he pointed out the Lord, of whom he was the forerunner; for in that our Lord took to Himself the sweetness of the barren Gentiles, he ate wild honey. In that He in His own person partly converted the Jews, He received locusts for His food, which suddenly leaping up, at once fall to the ground. For the Jews leaped up when they promised to fulfil the precepts of the Lord; but they fell to the ground, when by their evil works they affirmed that they had not heard them. They made therefore a leap upwards in words, and fell down by their actions.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) The dress and food of John may also express of what kind was his inward walk. For he used a dress more austere than was usual, because he did not encourage the life of sinners by flattery, but chid them by the vigour of his rough rebuke; he had a girdle of skin round his loins, for he was one, who crucified his flesh with the affections and lusts. (Gal. 5:24) He used to cat locusts and wild honey, because his preaching had some sweetness for the multitude, whilst the people debated whether he was the Christ himself or not; but this soon came to an end, when his hearers understood that he was not the Christ, but the forerunner and prophet of Christ. For in honey there is sweetness, in locusts swiftness of flight; whence there follows, And he preached, saying, there cometh one mightier than I after me.

GLOSS. (non occ.) He said this to do away with the opinion of the crowd, who thought that he was the Christ; but he announces that Christ is mightier than he, who was to remit sins, which he himself could not do.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Who again is mightier than the grace, by which sins are washed away, which John signifies? He who seven times and seventy times seven remits sin. Grace indeed comes first, but remits sins once only by baptism, but mercy reaches to the wretched from Adam up to Christ through seventy-seven generations, and up to one hundred and forty-four thousand. (Mat. 18:22)

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) But lest he should be thought to say this by way of comparing himself to Christ, he subjoins, Of whom I am not worthy, &c. It is not however the same thing to loose the shoe-latchet, which Mark here says, and to carry his shoes, which Matthew says. And indeed the Evangelists following the order of the narrative, and not able to err in any thing, say that John spoke each of these sayings in a different sense. But commentators on this passage have expounded each in a different way. For he means by the latchet, the tie of the shoe. (non occ.). He says this therefore to extol the excellence of the power of Christ, and the greatness of His divinity; as if he said, Not even in the station of his servant am I worthy to be reckoned. For it is a great thing to contemplate, as it were stooping down, those things which belong to the body of Christ, and to see from below the image of things above, and to untie each of those mysteries, about the Incarnation of Christ, which cannot be unravelled.

PSEUDO-JEROME. The shoe is in the extremity of the body; for in the end the Incarnate Saviour is coming for justice, whence it is said by the prophet, Over Edom will I cast out my shoe. (Ps. 60:9)

GREGORY. (Hom. in Evan. vii.) Shoes also are made from the skins of dead animals. The Lord, therefore, coming incarnate, appeared us it were with shoes on His feet, for He assumed in His divinity the dead skins of our corruption. Or else; it was a custom among the ancients, that if a man refused to take as his wife the woman whom he ought to take, he who offered himself as her husband by right of kindred took off that man’s shoe. Rightly then does he proclaim himself unworthy to loose his shoe-latchet, as if he said openly, I cannot make bare the feet of the Redeemer, for I usurp not the name of the Bridegroom, a thing which is above my deserts.

THEOPHYLACT. Some persons also understand it thus; all who came to John, and were baptized, through penitence were loosed from the bands of their sins by believing in Christ. John then in this way loosed the shoe-latchet of all the others, that is, the bands of sin. But Christ’s shoe-latchet he was not able to unloose, because he found no sin in Him.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Thus then John proclaims the Lord not yet as God, or the Son of God, but only as a man mightier than himself. For his ignorant hearers were not yet capable of receiving the hidden things of so great a Sacrament, that the eternal Son of God, having taken upon Him the nature of man, had been lately born into the world of a virgin; but gradually by the acknowledgment of His glorified lowliness, they were to be introduced to the belief of His Divine Eternity. To these words, however, he subjoins, as if covertly declaring that he was the true God, I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost. For who can doubt, that none other but God can give the grace of the Holy Ghost.

JEROME. For what is the difference between water and the Holy Ghost, who was borne over the face of the waters? Water is the ministry of man; but the Spirit is ministered by God.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) Now we are baptized by the Lord in the Holy Ghost, not only when in the day of our baptism, we are washed in the fount of life, to the remission of our sins, but also daily by the grace of the same Spirit we are inflamed, to do those things which please God.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.

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