Are you for God’s Kingdom?

Advent began last Sunday with a call to be alert and vigilant; to be awake and attentive to God’s grace at work in our lives.

Dec 08, 2023

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Fr Lawrence Lew, OP

2nd Sunday of Advent (B)
Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-14;
2 Peter 3:8-14
Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

A few years ago, I met someone who told me about his conversion to Christianity. He came from an atheist background, and he wasn’t familiar with the Gospels. But he was writing a doctorate on social justice and Marxism, and he realised that many ideas could be traced to the Gospels. So he thought that, as part of his research, he should at least open the Bible and read it. And as he read the Gospels, he said, the figure of Christ was so radical, so compelling, so attractive that he knew it had to be true. So, he sought baptism as a Catholic.

How often do we listen to the Gospel and think we know it already; we zone out. Can it be that our familiarity with the Christian story causes us to miss Christ’s presence? Or maybe our problem is that we’re not familiar enough with the Scriptures — you might think you know the story but when did you last open the Bible and actually read the Word of God?

We often think that Advent is about us waiting for Christ, but in fact, the Lord has been waiting for you and for me. From all eternity, the Lord has been waiting to have a heart to heart with us, to speak words of consolation to us, to fill us with His Holy Spirit. And so, we’re invited to make room for God to speak to us; to come to us in the wilderness of our lives; to make a straight way forward through the crooked paths that we find ourselves walking along. This is what Advent is for.

So, Advent began last Sunday with a call to be alert and vigilant; to be awake and attentive to God’s grace at work in our lives. And then, having woken us up, the Advent herald comes today crying out and making great declarations, getting us to sit up and listen again. For St Mark’s Gospel opens with a great announcement: “The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 1:1). So much is packed into this first sentence, but we can often miss its radical newness because we’ve become too familiar with Jesus being called Christ and Son of God, and we think we know what the word ‘gospel’ or ‘Good News’ means – it’s the story about Jesus’ life, we’d say.

So, when Mark’s Gospel opens, we’re being alerted that there’s going to be an impending regime change. St Mark then quotes from the prophet Isaiah, and here’s the news from the frontline: “[Jerusalem’s] time of service is ended… her sin is atoned for… the Lord is coming with power”. The Gospel, therefore, begins with a declaration that God is taking charge; He Himself is coming to rule the world, and to establish justice, and to shepherd His people. But are we ready for this regime change? So, John the Baptist arrives to prepare us, and every Advent we’re called, as it were, to cast our vote, to make a choice. Do we want to live under the regime of the devil, under the reign of sin, or will we switch allegiance and choose to live under God’s rule, in his Kingdom? Thus, John arrives “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4): he’s canvassing for votes, getting us to change our ways of thinking and behaving and to come on the side with God rather than stick with the rebels. For every moral decision that we make, every action that we undertake, is either for God and His Kingdom, or against Him.

Therefore, the Lord speaks now, in this Advent season, and indeed, every day, He speaks to our hearts, calling us to listen to His voice. It is a voice that is ever new, and we should not allow a false familiarity with the Gospels to mute it. Rather, we’re challenged to turn away from our familiar habits of sin and embrace a new regime in our lives. Let Christ be king; make His paths straight so that He can enter our hearts and reign. This is what it means to be baptised by the Holy Spirit: it means that I am filled anew with the transforming power of God so that from then on it is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the Lord of my life, my actions, my thoughts.

Today St Mark announces good, life-changing cosmic-scale news. Let us not be passive newsreaders but be newsmakers — by allowing the Lord to come with the power of His Holy Spirit into our lives to convert us. So, if you dare, say with me: “Come, Holy Spirit!” And then, go home, pick up your Bibles, open and read.
Fr Lawrence Lew is a member of the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominican friars. This reflection is taken from the archives of ‘Releasing the Arrow’.

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