Sunday Gospel Reflection
by Sister Maura McMenamin
Published: December 10, 2017
“A voice of one shouting ‘prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’”
By this date in December many people are focussed on a vastly different kind of preparation in mind – the number of gifts yet unbought etc.
On first reflection for the Christian, the account of the Baptism by John preceding the birth of Christ seems somewhat of an anomaly and at the same time sets the scene for the remaining run-up to Christmas. This is our first challenge – why this order and what does it say to us about the Incarnation?
This account by Mark tells us that John had a mission to call God’s people to repentance. This he did by calling them to baptism in the Jordan in the knowledge that water is a sign of cleansing and new life. The people, who were already members of God’s people, were being called to repent and be baptized. They are being called to a new way of life. This new way of life will be found in the teachings of Jesus. Hence his cry “prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths”. John the Baptizer, the messenger is preparing the way of the Lord.
The message of John was twofold
• John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins
• He also proclaimed that the One to come after him is stronger than him
The next part of the Gospel tells us that many people flocked to hear John and submit to his baptism This is followed by the words heard by Jesus alone “You are my beloved Son; in you I have taken pleasure” Jesus is proclaimed as God’s own Son and the Holy Spirit descends on him. Jesus is aware of this. Jesus perceives the Spirit and is certainly aware of the voice of God as He comes out of the water. Whatever He does will be in the power of the Spirit and as God’s beloved Son.
The fact that this Gospel occurs where it does, emphasises for us that Jesus is the Son of God and so is a fitting preparation for our celebration of his birth at Christmas.
“Prepare ye the way…” underlines the questions “How do I prepare my heart for the coming of the Lord?” “How do I open my heart?” Perhaps the order of the stories is not such an anomaly after all. John’s challenge “prepare ye the way of the Lord” urges us to take this preparation seriously. Perhaps we need to look critically at our lives – our attitude and care for others – our awareness of Christ in other people. To use the title of a book, we are challenged to rebirth God in our lives “Part of the rebirthing of God in our lives and in our world is allowing the depths of compassion to flow.”
About Sister Maura
Sister Maura, who was born in Scotland, spent most of her religious life in the south of England. For many years she was a primary school head. Before taking up the role of an adviser on Religious Education for the Archdiocese of Southwark, she spent a short time in the Shetland Isles (the most northerly part of the British Isles) setting up catechetical opportunities for children and parents. Later she took up the dual role of adviser and inspector for the Diocese of Plymouth where she also tutored for the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies for teachers and catechists. She then spent a short time as acting director in Plymouth before taking up the post of Director of the RE Office in Argyll and the Isles. This afforded her the opportunity of travelling to fascinating faraway places such as Barra, Skye and Lewis. Ill health caused her to retire at the age of 70. Then she worked for a while as a part-time on-line tutor for St Bede’s College, Ushaw, tutoring students working towards the CCRS certificate. Sister Maura is now fully retired from active, full-time ministry and has returned to England.
Our thanks to the Congregational Mission Office of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, which publishes Gospel Reflections for Sundays and Feast Days.