“The beginning of the Gospel,” are the first words of our Gospel this Sunday. But we won’t hear anything about the birth of Jesus, or about the conception of the child announced by an angel. Why? Because we have just started cycle B, the Gospel of Mark cycle of Gospel readings. Mark’s is the first of our four Gospels to be written; it dates from about the year 67 C.E. (Common Era). The earliest Gospel writing, Scripture scholars believe, were accounts of Jesus’ teachings, miracles and passion. It took more time, and the completion of the separation of Christians from the Jewish religion, for the infancy narratives and resurrection accounts to be included in or added to Gospels. Advent itself only gradually began to be observed by the early Church; it became pretty common by about 350 C.E. and was placed in our liturgical calendar around 560 C.E. The earliest Church, represented by Mark’s Gospel, seems to have been focused on the adult Jesus, not on the infant Jesus. So this week and next, instead of that infant, Mark presents us with the character of John the Baptist, Jesus’ strange cousin. A desert dweller and preacher in strange clothes, he preaches a message of repentance and presents himself as not the messiah (next week’s Gospel) but one whose mission is to “prepare the way of the Lord.” So “prepare” is our Advent motif. And that “prepare” is such a challenge as we are pressured by our giving and entertaining holiday season. We’re preparing, all right, but to meet the expectations that Christmas seems to impose on us. I think it helps just to do one thing to keep the religious meaning of Advent in my sight. Doing just one simple Advent practice seems to put everything else into proper perspective. This year, I think I’ll check out the Hark! podcasts (americamagazine.org/podcasts). What about you?
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia