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Dear Friends,
This is the first weekend of Advent, the beginning of the new Liturgical Year in the life of the Church. I’m sure you remember that the Sunday readings for the Liturgical Year are celebrated in a three-year cycle, simply referred to as Years A, B and C. Having completed a journey through the Gospel of Matthew (Year A in the Lectionary), we now begin a similar journey through the Gospel of Mark (identified as Year B). This means that except for certain seasons, and certain feasts, our Sunday readings are generally taken up with a continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel. As I have in the past, I want to share a few thoughts with you on this Gospel.

Despite the fact that Matthew’s Gospel appears first in the arrangement of the New Testament, it is generally accepted by most scholars that the Gospel of Mark is the first Gospel written and is one of the sources used by both Matthew and Luke in the composition of their own gospels. (Although there is no absolute proof of this latter point.) The author is generally accepted as a disciple of Peter, from whose preaching and teaching about Jesus Mark drew his material. Also called John Mark, the author at one time was also a disciple of Paul and a cousin of Barnabas. Mark’s Gospel is usually dated somewhere between 65 and 70 AD, thus written somewhere around thirty years after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, and before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army under Titus.

As mentioned above, Peter did not dictate a Gospel to Mark, as I remember being taught back in school. Rather, the material in the Gospel represents Mark’s recollection of Peter’s teachings which he (Mark) then arranged in his own order. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark makes no mention of the infancy narratives, beginning his Gospel with the preaching of the Baptist. But his very opening line tells us about what will follow, “The beginning of the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ (the Son of God).” The remainder of the work goes to telling that good news. This is the time for fulfillment (of all the Old Testament promised), the kingdom is near, the only response is faith. And the fulfillment is found, not in a body of propositions, but in a person, Jesus, the Christ. And the Gospel will be a gradually unraveling of that “Messianic secret,” about this Jesus, thought to be from Nazareth but really from heaven.

Mark’s is the shortest of all the Gospels, but often tells more of the details of Jesus’ ministry than either Matthew or Luke. It recounts what Jesus did in a vivid style, an almost breathless narrative, where one incident follows directly after another. 410 of Mark’s 678 verses begin with “And,” and over 40 times is followed by “immediately.” It is almost as if Mark is in a hurry to tell the reader the story so that the reader may enter into this life of faith in Jesus as soon as he/she can. Along with this immediacy is the strong emotions Mark’s Jesus shows. Matthew and Luke often edit out Jesus’ emotional response but Mark does not hesitate to portray Jesus in all His emotional complexity: compassion, love, sympathy, indignation, amazement, anger, exasperation, distress or sorrow. St. Mark portrays a profoundly human Jesus: the Son of God who is truly the Son of Man.

It should be an exciting year journeying with this “excited” writer we call Mark.

And speaking of exciting, what could be a better way to begin than the shout of Jesus in today’s Gospel, “Be watchful! Be alert!” Watch, for God is coming. The Word, the Emmanuel, the God-With-Us, the Christ is coming. In His life and through His glorification, we find the path to a better world, both in the life to come and as a program for living in the mess of this world (and doesn’t it seem to be in a mess). For us as Catholics, there is no other sure way, no other guiding light that can help us navigate and fill us with hope. Because He is the Way and the Truth and the Light, we can be filled with hope.

And this is the theme, the focus of the season we are entering, ADVENT. This is the time of hope. And rightly so, this Season of Hope begins the new Liturgical Year in the life of the Church. Literally, Advent means “to come to,” to come to that moment when God would speak to us in an irrevocable way, assuring us of His presence not just at that moment in chronological history (4 BC, when history tells us Jesus was born), but for all time. Advent is the time to remember that irrevocable moment and to prepare for His 2nd Coming in that remembering. It is a time of preparation.

But how? While chronologically it goes hand in hand with shopping, decorating, sending Christmas greetings and socializing, it should be more. One way is to use the Little Blue Books, found at the doors of the church today, as a source of daily reflection. Another way is to use the ancient custom of the Advent wreath, praying and lighting a candle every evening before dinner.

Don’t let this sacred time go by without some preparation for that “irrevocable “ Word that God will speak at Christmas.

Advent blessings,
Fr. Ron

PS. I return this week to a custom that has marked my own experience of Advent hope by making my annual retreat with the Hermits of Bethlehem (how appropriate), spending five days in the solitary presence of the Lord in a hermitage in Chester, NJ. Pray for me, as I will pray for all of you.
And speaking of hope, next Sunday, my column will be replaced with some reflections from our young people who attended the National Youth Conference in Indianapolis two weeks ago. Coming from the future generations of adult Catholics, I think you’ll find them full of hope.
God Bless,
Fr. Ron

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Mass Schedule

Weekend Liturgies
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday
8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m.,
11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m.,
3 p.m. (Spanish), 6:30 p.m.
Weekday Liturgies
Monday thru Friday,
6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m.,
and 12 noon
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. only
Holy Days
Eve: 7:30pm (anticipated)
6:30am, 8:30am, and 12noon 

 

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Click Here for the Video in English and Spanish

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