Happy New Year! I know it’s a strange greeting at this time, however, today marks the beginning of a new church year.
Most of us make New Year’s resolutions on Dec. 31 or sometimes in the morning of Jan. 1. New beginnings are times to evaluate who we have become, to think about who we’d like to be, and to set a new direction and goals. This year, as we begin a new cycle of Scripture readings and a new translation of prayers at Mass, it might also be a good time to make a few resolutions about taking our relationship with God to the next level.
Mass this weekend will probably begin with the blessing and lighting of the Advent wreath. The focus during these first weeks is on the final coming of Christ at the end of time. The wreath and the growing light each week symbolizes the gift of light that Christ’s coming brought to our world. This Sunday some priests might also include a prayer of blessing for the new missal as we begin to pray with the texts we’ve studied about these past months.
St. Mark is the evangelist we read during cycle B. His is the shortest of the Gospels and was written at a time when the church was suffering persecution. Before his account, stories about Jesus and his teachings had been transmitted mostly by word of mouth. Mark’s Gospel was the first to pull together a cohesive presentation of Christ’s life.
Mark probably wrote for the Christian converts in Rome who were beginning to suffer persecution so he offers a clear sense of the redemptive suffering of Jesus. We don’t find the scriptural allusions of Matthew because Mark’s audience didn’t have a strong background in the Jewish Scriptures. We don’t find the poetic and more detailed descriptions of Luke, the better educated evangelist. Instead, Mark gets right to the point: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. …May he (the lord of the house) not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!’”
In addition to his direct style, Mark’s writings contain a sense of urgency. The kingdom of God is at hand and in our midst, and NOW is the time for repentance!
Today’s Gospel message of watchfulness is reminiscent of Isaiah’s prayer in the first reading. As he expresses sorrow for Israel’s sinfulness and prays that the day of the Lord will come SOON, he says, “would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!”
In our faith life, Advent is a time of waiting and preparation, both for the feast of Christmas, but also for the final coming of Christ in glory. Perhaps this weekend, before things become really busy, take some extra time to reflect on whether you are who you want to be, when the Lord comes. And if you aren’t, maybe there are a few changes that will help you and your family be better prepared to greet the Lord.
Sr. Rehrauer is the diocesan director of Evangelization, Living Justice and Worship.