Second Sunday of Advent B: December 10, 2023

Mark 1: 1-8

Fr. John Tran

A man once owned a large and expensive clock crafted in Switzerland. He kept the clock in a window, where it was seen by passersby who set their watches by it. But something was wrong with the clock. Its hands habitually showed the wrong time. So, the man spent considerable energy every day in turning the clock’s hands to the right positions. This went on for several years, which kept the owner weary. One day someone suggested, “Instead of wasting your energy in correcting the hands, why don’t you fix the clock’s inner parts?” “What a tremendous idea!” the owner exclaimed in astonishment and delight. “I never thought of that!” God did not intend to make a few cosmetic changes by sending Christ into the world. God intended nothing less than to change the whole dynamic of human character. That’s why each Advent we encounter this strange character, John the Baptist, with his call to repentance. If we embrace this repentance, we are able to really meet God.

This Second Sunday of Advent we hear the beginning of Mark’s gospel. This is a no frills gospel. Mark, from the beginning, emphasizes that Jesus comes out of the Hebrew tradition. We hear that John quotes the prophet Isaiah which we hear in the first reading: “A voice of one crying out in the desert.” He also quotes the prophet Malachai who warns Israel of the need of repentance: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.” So Mark reminds us of the origins of God’s long relationship with us from Moses and the prophets to the Christ. While John offers nothing new, he tells us with urgency that the messenger is near, that God is sending his Anointed One, his Messiah. This is the culmination of God’s search for humankind, his final reaching out to us to know him.

Last week, we were urged to be alert and watch. Today we learn what we are watching for, that is, the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” We know who this is, don’t we. We do not need to be in suspense to find out. Yet, every year, we do need to watch in the right way, to recognize the one who comes to us. We can get so wrapped up in the physical getting ready, that we forget why in might be important to prepare a special meal to eat as Jesus often did with his disciples both before and after the resurrection. Do we remember why we want to give a gift to those we love and respect? Remember also that there are those in real material and spiritual need, whom we do not know, but who need us, need Jesus as a matter of life and death.

In our hurry to get ready for Christmas, we are taken up with the many voices who remind us, ‘hurry, its only three more weeks to Christmas.’ We forget the smaller, quieter voice that invites us: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” The call to repentance can sometime be to refocus. When we are open to this refocus, we are able to become the new person that God is calling us to be, so that we can finally meet him face to face.

Today, right now, in this quiet moment, we can hear this voice. Mark, reminding us of John’s message. John echos Isaiah, telling us to pause, to consider what we are doing, and prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Lord. Let us cut through the clutter that tempts us. Remember that the path between us and God, the path that opens before us from the moment we are born, is both simple and straight. We can walk that path any time; all we have to do is take the first step.