Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
2 Peter 3:8-14
St. Mark probably produced his gospel in Rome around the year 60. So a learned convert of Peter’s or Paul’s might have cherished reading an early copy. He would have noticed that opening line – St. Mark was calling his document "An Announcement of Good News." That was the meaning of the Greek Mark took over. ("evangel") As St. Mark reviewed the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, he saw it as another inbreaking of the goodness of God into a needy world. Some five hundred years earlier a prophet whose name has not come down to us was inspired amid the depressed and discouraged Chosen People to deliver a message of hope: "Comfort, my people, your guilt is expiated…" One hundred years earlier the great Isaiah of Jerusalem had warned, "Jerusalem and its temple will perish in flames, its people will know exile and death." The message and the messenger were mocked. But the People confined in Babylon experienced its fulfillment. Now came another prophet with a message of hope and deliverance, and his words were added to the scrolls of the First Isaiah. St. Mark knew those words and now found them realized even more truly in John the Baptist the prophet who was the forerunner of the very Son of God, come as our Supreme Comfort!
Our Liturgy tells us the message of Isaiah and Mark is meant for us today. The "Good News" is meant for us. Handel’s "Messiah" sets the words of "Comfort" to superb music, but we need to let the words themselves be music in our hearts. We are facing hard times. The Almighty $ has failed us, banks have been swallowed up, civil leaders are facing great difficulties. We are not in Babylon, but we may feel confined and trapped. What is life offering us? Our God is with us, our God is for us. Isaiah and Mark affirm that. Our God delivered the Chosen People. Our God saw the Church in Rome emerge triumphant over Rome’s vaunted power. Our God saw the tiny American Church emerge strongly in this country. John the Baptist tells us our part is to believe and open ourselves to the God who comes, Emmanuel!
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Chicago. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.