"... the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.' "
Mark 1: 3
Reflecting on the text
The herald cries out in the wilderness; the Common English Bible translates "cries out" as "shouts." And the wilderness shouts out its joy when the Messiah comes; it rejoices and blossoms like the desert rose. The symbol of the rose recalls the prophetic vision of Isaiah 35. Growth, joy, life - the birth of the Messiah transforms all creation. In art, literature, and poetry over the centuries, Jesus Christ himself was symbolized by a rose. The custom of using the rose as an Advent symbol can be traced back to the 13th century. It was Martin Luther's favorite symbol of the Christian faith. It blooms among us as a sign of hope and joy at the center of our Chancel cross.
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Mark cites a series of "Beginnings" in his Gospel. The first of these are the Galilean ministry of Jesus. It emphasizes that Jesus teaches with authority and how his fame spread through the surrounding region of Galilee. The voices of the people cry in the wilderness: "This is new! Have we ever heard this kind of teaching from our own leaders?"
The great message of Jesus is the forgiving of sin and sharing the table with sinners. We need to hear this news today. Not many of us are inclined to this behavior and we do not hear it from our leaders. Our internal judgments interfere with drawing near to sinners and, consequently to Jesus. We object to the "gathering in" Jesus extends to sinners. And when we gather at the table, often we sit at "the safe end" where we need not carry on conversations with those who make us uncomfortable.
Jesus saw the "best self" in others before they saw it in themselves. Each person was a new beginning for Jesus. Mark introduces us to new honesty and freedom in Chapter 2:31. In a few verses Jesus teaches that there will be a new intimacy when we gather with others. We will be named brother, sister, and mother to Jesus. Mark's Gospel also shows that this intimacy with others is the source of our heartfelt prayer to God. Jesus prays this way with the Father. Again we may have heard the people respond, "Have we heard this heartfelt way of praying before!" The Advent season gives us these new beginnings, too.
Sister Karlyn Cauley