First Sunday of Advent (3 Dec.)

Readings: Isa 63:16-17.19; 64:3-7; I Cor 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

With the beginning of Advent this year we enter into Year B and the Gospel of Mark. In earlier times Mark’s Gospel was overshadowed by that of Matthew: remember how Dominic only had the Gospel of Matthew and the Epistles of St. Paul with him on his travels, because it was thought that Matthew’s theology contained all that was in Mark and more besides, especially as regards the preaching of Jesus. But Mark is very popular in today’s world, because his Gospel is a stark portrayal of the problems Jesus had in facing up to the abuse of power in his time, problems that are still very much with us.

Today’s Gospel reading is part of what has been called Mark’s “Farewell Discourse” in which he portrays Jesus as calling into question the power structure of Temple leadership in Jerusalem and warning his disciples about the overthrowing of the world order as they knew it. Disciples are to be continually alert, diligent in the tasks they have in life, but ready at all times for the coming of the Lord: four times of the night are mentioned as possible times of that coming: evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn, all of which times occur in Mark’s account of the Passion, for example, on the evening Jesus comes to Gethsemane where the disciples do not stay awake and at cockcrow Peter will deny the Lord. Mark was critical of the disciples right throughout the Gospel, but only to warn his own Church, and Christians today, of the need to be constantly alert for the action of God in their lives.

That action is vividly portrayed in the first reading where the Lord’s coming challenges the people in their backslidings and waywardness. But the images for God used in the passage – Father, Redeemer, Presence, Shepherd, Potter – all speak of a God who receives us back when we “rouse ourselves to catch hold of you.” We can thank God, as Paul does in the Second Reading, that the God we are called to serve is a faithful God.


Céline Mangan, O.P.

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