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Sunday 10th of December 2017

Gospel
Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.
and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

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Fr Murtagh’s Commentary
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’.