Let's Start Again
I think that we all could use a new beginning, don’t you? After a year of pandemic, social unrest, political chaos, distrust, and disunity, we all might desire to press the “reset button” on our world.
Last week we celebrated the new beginning of our liturgical year. Today, on this Second Sunday of Advent, we hear Mark’s opening to his simple, yet powerful, Gospel: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” We might be tempted to simply see this first line of the gospel as a sort of title for the rest of the story; however, in these twelve words (in Spanish eleven) are more than just a place-keeper. They are a promise for those who are willing to embrace the good news.
In these fading days of the year, we are always prompted to look back and remember what has been – the impact of the global coronavirus; the dirtiest news stories… However, the Church in Her wisdom does not do this same retrospection. Rather, in the darkening days of December we begin anew! This renewal of our liturgical year can now prompt us to look forward – forward to all the new beginnings that God offers us to come.
These are new beginnings that say, “I’m sorry. Can we talk?” They are the beginnings that come from “I am addicted. I need help.” It is the same beginning as “Bless me, father, for I have sinned.” It is a chance to pick up a phone, to open a door, to offer a hand.
These are the beginnings that God offers us every day. He has offered them throughout history. Isaiah’s words of comfort come to an Israel that has been in exile and awaits relief. God comes to them and speaks of peace and tranquility. St. Peter tells us of “new heavens and a new earth in which [justice will dwell].” And John the Baptist reminds us that God is preparing to do wonderful things in our lives – even now.
Yes, each moment is an opportunity to begin anew with God. We do not have to be facing complete disaster, certain death, or national chaos to have that opportunity come. God is present already, and He is working in our lives and hearts now. That is what Advent is all about: realizing that, even as we await God’s coming, He is truly present with us now – our Emmanuel. Here at this Eucharist, Jesus pours out His love for us in the Blessed Sacrament and renews us in that love, strengthened to do that work – that new work – that He gives us to do.
“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” It is a promise to us from God that He is indeed doing something new; He is allowing us to restart. Our acceptance of that promise means that we make straight in the wasteland of our broken world a highway for our God; that we fill in every valley and make every mountain and hill low. These are not geographical places; rather, they are our hearts. We are called to turn away from the darkness of our sin and look toward the light of Christ that will dawn at Christmas. Pope Francis said in his general audience this past week that “God does not wait for us to convert ourselves before beginning to love us, but He loved us a long time before, when we were still in sin,” and that “God’s grace changes lives: He takes us as we are, but He never leaves us as we are.”
Our lives have their own new beginnings from time to time. They might not be as drastic, but they nevertheless impact us in ways that reorient our thinking, even in the smallest ways. Even when we seem to be facing an ending, the person of faith can say that God’s hand is still at work, making things new – and this is a reason to heed Isaiah’s words of “comfort.”
Advent is a season of grace – God’s grace, opening our hearts to welcome the coming of Christ. It may be a dark time in our calendar; it may come amid the darkness of fear and uncertainty in our world; but we are still offered the same promise of light that Isaiah and John the Baptist shared. Jesus is the Messiah who saves us from our sin and brokenness; He is the Son of God, who by taking on our flesh has reconciled us to the Father. This is good news – the Good News; the gospel of Jesus Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God.
Today, as we listen to this new beginning from Mark and from Christ himself, may we be turned toward that open horizon that welcomes us to see where God is taking us next. And may we embrace each new opportunity to start doing that work that He has made us for.