The invitations have been sent; one thing is lacking, our response. An invitation to what? Today’s readings propose an answer. Mark’s gospel is an invitation to all his hearers to discover, with the first disciples, the true identity of Jesus, of God. The first part of Mark’s gospel is devoted to the start of the disciples’ journey with Jesus, witnessing his actions, miracles and words. The turning point comes when they confess him to be the Messiah. After this, Mark shows Jesus challenging their beliefs about the Messiah, common during his time, in order to teach them God’s vision of Messiahship. I wonder how many of our preconceived notions like those of Jesus’ early followers hinder our encountering Jesus and responding to his query, “Who do you say that I am?” If only we could shed them and ask the Spirit to open our hearts and minds.
In today’s gospel we meet John, a prophet like Elijah who signs peoples’ repentance and readiness to journey, with a baptism of water. John fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy and prepares the way for the coming of the Lord with words of comfort and consolation to the people in exile, assuring them that their time of dislocation and alienation is over. We, too, are in exile. Our exile is dissimilar to the Jewish people; they were deported to a foreign land, Babylon. But there are similarities; we live separated from our true home and our true selves. At some level of ourselves we long for our exile to be over. It is crucial that we know that God is in charge lest we surrender to the hopelessness that permeates so much of the cultural envelope surrounding us. Isaiah’s description of our saving God seems paradoxical: strong and mighty and at the same time gentle, filled with care for the weak and vulnerable. Dwelling in that paradox, we can be led to encountering the true God.
Peter, in his letter continues to challenge our all too human ways of trying to understand God. The community thought that God was not faithful to his promised return. Instead Peter helps them to see that God’s delay in returning is fueled by God’s patience and desire that all be saved.
Let us allow God’s word to take root in our hearts and minds. Then and only then will we be able to encounter the Mystery of God and not our image of God. This is the journey to which each of us has been invited. Let us allow each of today’s scriptures to be signposts guiding us on the path. My prayer is that in this encounter we surrender to the Mystery and allow God to work in and through us.
Sr. Jean Flannelly, SC
After more than 35 years preparing men and women for ordained and lay ministry in the Church, Sister Jean currently ministers as pastoral associate at Mount Saint Vincent Convent and in adult spiritual/faith enrichment in Dutchess County.