For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring.
– Isaiah 44:3
And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.
– Ezekiel 36: 27
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerub′babel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
– Zechariah 4:6
The readings for the Second Sunday of Advent (Mark 1:1-8) can be found here.
The Gospel verses are just a short snippet of the beginning of Mark, commonly referred to as the prologue. After this Sunday Gospel reading we meet Jesus immediately in the next verse and He is baptized, spends 40 days in the wilderness being tempted, and begins His public ministry.
The most important point of the prologue comes when John the Baptist says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Our Sunday Gospel reading only makes sense if we understand those words of John the Baptist.
Now, we don’t have to be scripture scholars to see that Mark begins the Gospel with a reading from the Old Testament. The author of Mark specifically identified Isaiah, the prophet, as the source of the OT writing, but the scripture scholar will tell you that not all the words are written in Isaiah.
Verse 2 actually come from Exodus 23:20 or Malachi 3:1, or a combination of both. Mark’s community clearly recognized these words as God’s promise to send a messenger to show Israel the way to the promised land. Now is the time for a new messenger to show us the way.
The actual words of Isaiah (40:3) come in verse 3 where a voice cries out to prepare a pathway for God. Some will say that John the Baptist was clearly that voice and that he prepared the pathway through baptism. The reality is that John the Baptist is the voice who cries out but the repentant people receiving baptism are the ones who prepare the pathway.
We are being asked today to repent, believe in the Gospel, and thus prepare the way for God.
Baptism was a ritual John the Baptist performed to ceremonialize God’s forgiveness of the person who changed their ways. To be baptized meant that you were willing to repent and believe in the good news. This willingness to repent and accept God’s forgiveness is how we begin to prepare that pathway for God.
We all know what it means to prepare a meal, or prepare a report. To prepare means to do something. We need to be actively doing something in order to prepare a pathway. The spark that ignites the activity is the belief that we can become different. Also, that God forgives our past behavior and lack of good judgement.
The Spirit is God himself, a merciful power establishing his reign over man’s heart, over the whole of man, inwardly present to man and apparent in his workings to man’s human spirit.
– Hans Kung : The Church, p.163
The author of Mark was clear that John the Baptist used water, but we could expect to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Water is considered the source of life, and water has come to symbolize life. Baptism symbolizes regeneration and renewal, or a new life.
The Holy Spirit is God, who also is considered the source of life. God can regenerate and renew us to new life through the Spirit. The Spirit can show us the way prepare the pathway.
It is Advent and the leaders of the Church have asked us to prepare a pathway for God. If there is one thing you take away from this homily it should be that we need to change our ways as part of this preparation. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
I pray that you hear that voice of the Spirit deep within you calling you to take action. I also pray that you are willing to accept the forgiveness of God this Advent.