The gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ according to Mark. Mark’s style is brief and immediate and to the point. This is good news in that it promises that the tyranny of sin and death are to be broken. The Gospel proclaims freedom – freedom from the slavery of sin and death and freedom from attachment to the material things and to the promises of the world.
The prophet Isaiah is quoted because of his importance in prophesying regarding the Messiah. His message is one that stresses the importance of preparation. There is a lot of external preparation for the coming of the Messiah but the real and essential preparation takes place in the heart of a person. It is as if the child is to be welcomed into the manger of the heart and the heart must be swept clean of sin. The heart is a vast and complex region. It is a world in itself. There is then the necessity of getting it ready to house the Christ child. If Christ is not born in our hearts this Christmas then his coming is in vain for us. The lord, the Good Shepherd is coming to console us. He is like a shepherd feeding his flock gathering lambs in his arms holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.
The gospel focuses on the role of John the Baptist. He is a human bridgehead between the old and the new, the last of the prophets. He is the one charged with preaching a message of preparation. His preaching is of a baptism for forgiveness of our sins as preparation and a message of the necessity of belief in the Gospel. He is a man of integrity. His lifestyle and his desert withdrawal are a kind of living protest against the excesses of lifestyle that prevailed in his time. The man and the message are one. He lives the message he proclaims. He is a man of humility. He says that he is unfit to do the work of a servant – to remove the sandals from the dusty feet of the master.
John’s prophetic gestures are the hallmarks of one with a genuine vocation to preaching the gospel. He is humble in demeanour. His diet is simple and not marked by waste or by excess. His clothing is also simple even ascetic, in contrast to the scandal of high fashion and high money. His formation or training is in the wilderness, echoing the history of his people whom God led by the hand of Moses into the wilderness so that he could speak to their hearts and form them into a people worthy of the name ‘chosen’.
The message of the Messiah will be one of mercy and faithfulness, justice and peace, plenty and prosperity. Consolation is assured. An end to punishment is promised. As Saint Paul writes, ‘What we are waiting for is what he promised; the new heavens and new earth, the place where righteousness will be at home’. He urges us, his friends, then, while we are waiting, ‘do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace’.