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December 4, 1987     The Message
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December 4, 1987
 

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December 4, 1987 Commentary The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana 5 Mass Readings By FATHER DONALD DILGER Mark's gospel+ishows us that Jesus is indeed Son of God Mass Readings for Sunday, Dec. 6, 1987 Mark 1:1-8 -- Second Sunday of Advent "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God" That is the title of Mark's work. There is some dispute as to whether "Son of God" was part of the original title but we will accept it as authentic for this reason: the climax of this gospel seems to be at the death of Jesus when the centurion speaks the words: "Indeed this was (the) Son of God." Mark states in his title that Jesus is Son of God, then proceeds to show throughout the gospel how this sonship is to be understood, and finally reaches the high point of his gospel by the profession of Jesus! divine sonship by the cen- turion who was a Gentile. Thus we see in this earliest of our gospels the outline of the Christian "mission turning from failure with the Jews to ac- ceptance by the Gentiles, a theme later adopted by the Gospel of Matthew. It should be noted that, unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark has no Infancy Gospel. He begins with the preaching of John the Baptizer. This indicates the priority of Mark's Gospel since it follows the primitive outline of the sermon we still see preserved in the Acts of Apostles 1:22: "...begin- ning with the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us..." Matthew and Luke, coming on the scene later, for reasons of their own added an Infancy Gospel. We may assume that both of them found the Gospel of Mark inadequate for their purposes. They changed it, sometimes cor- rected it, and added much to it. What does Mark mean by "Gospel"? The word should be taken in the sense of preaching or pro- clamation as it was used earlier by Paul. It is a pro- clamation of the message of Jesus adapted to the time and place in which Mark wrote. It should be clear that Mark has no intention of writing a biography of Jesus. He selected material about Jesus that will serve his purpose -- to proclaim the Good News of Jesus as Christ, Lord, Son of God. We do not know his sources but it is almost cer- tain that he changed the material he found to adapt it to his own theology just as Matthew and Luke changed Mark to adapt him to theirs. We notice that John the Baptizer is not in- troduced in Mark as he later was in Luke's Gospel. For Mark's readers there was no need of an in- troduction. They must have. been acquainted with the work and mission of John. To them he was that messenger alluded to in Malachy 3:1 and later identified in Malachy 4:5 as Elijah returning to the earth to prepare the "Day of the Lord." It is in- teresting that in the Gospel of John (1:21) John denies that he is Elijah while in Mark 9:13 the words of Jesus seem to identify John with Elijah. What we have here is differing theological points of view by two authors. There is a problem in the quote about the 'messenger from Malachy in that Mark attributes the quote to Isaiah. If the text is authentic we must admit that Mark misquoted, made a mistake. The only way around that is to say that this is not an original part of the gospel but was later added by someone other than Mark. However, we need not be afraid to admit that the author of a gospel mis- quoted. That does not take away the truth of revelation contained in the words of the gospels. Of such difficulties Augustine wrote: "God wished difficulties to be scattered throughout the Sacred Books He inspired, so that we may be prompted to read and search them more intently .... " Our ap- proach is somewhat different in that we distinguish between the words of the author and the message he gives us. In the message there can be no error. In the words there Can be human limitations. In the words of John XXlll at the open- ing of Vatican If: "The substance of the ancient deposit of faith is one thing, and the way it is presented is another." But what is the message of today's reading? Jesus is the Christ-Messiah, Son of God, Lord. John the Baptizer prepared the way for him. Even if Malachy and Isaiah here quoted by Mark never foresaw John the Baptizer in their prophecies, when Mark took up their words they received a much fuller meaning than they had before. Mark saw John as the returned Elijah. The description of John's clothing in Mark 1:6 probably points to the description of Elijah in I1 Kings 1:8. )ohn's bap- tism was understood by Mark and his community as a preparation for Christian baptism, that is bap- tism with the Holy Spirit. Mark wants to be certain that his readers understand that the mission of John was preparatory, that John was not the Messiah but rather prepared for him. The baptism of John was an outward sign of that interior disposition of repentance which brings about the forgiveness of sins. We cannot be sure what type of "Messenger" of the Day of the Lord John expected because we do not know how much Mark adapted John's message to his own theology. By combining the quotes from Malachy and Isaiah Mark gives us some idea of what he and his community ex- pected, If John thought that Jesus was the Messenger mentioned in Malachy, it seems Mark's community did not follow him in this. For them John himself is that Messenger while Jesus is that Lord for whom the Messenger will prepare towards the Day of the Lord. For Mark's Christians that Day has become the Parousia or Return of Jesus as final judge, a day they seem to have expected to occur very soon. By putting this gospel reading into the liturgical context of Advent, our Church has given it a different m. eaning. It no longer looks to an im- mediate preparation for the final return of Jesus but rather a call to repentance to be worthy to join in the liturgical celebration of his human birth. It is also a call to a proclamation of our faith in Jesus as Messiah, Lord, God, Saviour when, in the words of today's first reading we are to "Get yourself up to a high mountaiin .... Lift up your voice mighti- ly...and say: 'Here is your Godl"' (Isaiah 40:9-11) That is the message of this gospel reading for us: first to prepare ourselves internally, then to go out and loudly proclaim of Jesus: "Here is your God1" Other readies [or Dec. 6: Isai 40:1.11; 1I Peter 3:8-14. For information on vocations contact: Father David Fleck, Vocations Office, 424-5536 Ext. 111 JASPER SER VICE AND SHOPPING GUIDE I Buehlers I.G.A. 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