My Dear sisters and Brothers! It is the second Sunday of Advent, the second Sunday of the New Liturgical year, until Advent of 2015 we will be given on Sundays passages taken from the Gospel of Mark. As we listen this Sunday to the first verses of the Gospel we can discover the reason why the Gospel of Mark has got for its symbol a lion. Each of the four Gospels has been attributed with a symbol as we read in the Book of the Revelation: “At the very center, around the throne itself, stood four living creatures covered with eyes front and back. The first creature resembled a lion; the second, an ox; the third had the face of a man; while the fourth looked like an eagle in flight.” St. Irenaeus reflected that the first living creature was like a lion symbolizing his effectual working, his leadership, and royal power. This is the symbol of Mark because his Gospel begins with John the Baptist, whose preaching is described as a voice crying in the wilderness, like the roar of a lion.
The roar of St John in the wilderness wasn’t a sound of a hurt animal or an angry one but it was the cry announcing coming of the Messiah. The voice of John the Baptist was the voice of many generations of humans longing for the coming of the Son of God, the Saviour promised to the first parents before they were expelled from Paradise. At the end of such a long waiting and longing John the Baptist appears in the same poverty the first people were. Genesis tells us that after people sinned “God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife and they put them on.” John who was an honest man, even by wearing a garment of camel-skin preaches this message: “Millennia have passed since our first parents were driven out of Paradise. We have built cities, we have acquired various survival skills, we have populated the earth but still deep down we are poverty stricken people. It doesn’t matter how much we achieve, without the Son of God coming to our aid we are just kidding ourselves, like the people who were trying to build the tower of Babel to reach heaven. No one can reach heaven without God reaching out to us to draw us to heaven.” John the Baptist, the righteous man, doesn’t say: “I deserve to get to heaven because I am a good person.” No, John the Baptist says: “I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals.” John didn’t baptise to forgive sins as only God can forgive sins. John’s action was to make people sorry for theirs sins. John was helping people to make an act of contrition so that they could be ready to be forgiven when Christ comes. At the same time he was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins or to say it more clearly: a baptism of change of thinking, change of mentality for forgiveness of sins. The poor prophet from the desert was sharing with his contemporaries that the coming Messiah was not to simply say: “Don’t worry, your sins are not bad, you are OK, you are a good person”, but that the Messiah was to establish such a baptism that those who receive it would be so filled with the Holy Spirit that their thinking would be completely different to what they exercised before.
I would like to encourage and invite all of you to renew the grace of your own baptism by going to Reconciliation before Christmas. Before you do so, say a few times the act of contrition and pray this prayer: “Lord I desire to be forgiven but even more I desire you to change my thinking, my mentality, so that your way of thinking could become mine too.”