The Second Sunday of Advent [B]
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11 + 2 Peter 3:8-14 + Mark 1:1-8
December 6, 2020
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.
During the new Church year that began last Sunday, we will hear from the Gospel account of St. Mark the Evangelist. St. Mark wrote the shortest of the four Gospel accounts. It’s only sixteen chapters long, while the longest—St. Matthew’s—is twenty-eight chapters long. Is this difference an accident, or through this difference does God reveal something to us?
The Gospel Reading that the Church proclaims on this Second Sunday of Advent portrays St. John the Baptist. This passage is the first eight verses of St. Mark’s Gospel account. St. Mark’s portrait of John the Baptist—lean and mean—reflects Mark’s account of the Gospel itself. Mark does not tell us about the conception and birth of John, as Luke does. For that matter, Mark doesn’t tell us about conception and birth of Jesus. Mark begins his account of the Gospel with John and Jesus already adults.
St. Mark the Evangelist plucks three verses from the Old Testament to illustrate John the Baptist in the role of prophet. None of the four evangelists portrays John at great length, but that’s part of the portrait of John, and illustrates one of his key virtues. Likewise, consider from this what you yourself should take home from today’s Gospel Reading to reflect upon during the coming week. How is St. John the Baptist a model for your life as a Christian?
When you look at St. John the Baptist, one of the first virtues that we see is humility. Certainly humility is key to understanding Advent. We hear that John’s appearance and diet are ‘mean’ in the sense of humble: “John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt …. He fed on locusts and wild honey.” The material humility of John’s life, however, is a means to an end: that is, living his vocation to be a prophet, to point out Jesus to others.
This is your vocation, also, in virtue of your baptism into the life of Christ Jesus. The role of prophet demands of you humility: both materially and spiritually. Most often, “material humility” is called “simplicity”. What is not truly needed in your life is in fact a burden. Advent, like Lent, is a time for throwing off burdens, both materially and spiritually.
Spiritual humility, however, is more important than material humility. Spiritual humility is reflected in John the Baptist’s life: he proclaims, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” John is referring to Jesus, of course.
Jesus is not just “the reason for the season”. Jesus is the reason for human life itself. Jesus is the answer to every question about the meaning of human life. The more that you humble yourself before Jesus, and say about your life what John said about his—that “He must increase, and I must decrease” [John 3:30]—then the more your life will deepen in meaning. Even in the face of your sins, through humility, repentance, and accepting Jesus as the price for your sins, “… the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.” Giving up your life to Jesus becomes your gift to your own self, as well as to God.