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For Your Weekend: An Advent Inspired by John the Baptist

Caitlin Bean
December 9, 2023

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 1:1–8

Every Advent, we prepare for the celebration of Christmas: the Incarnation of Christ, the manifestation of God in the flesh, one with His people in all things but sin. It is easy to reflect only on the first coming of Christ and lose sight of the fact that much like the Israelites of years past, we, too, are awaiting the coming of Christ. True, it will be His second coming, but are we prepared for it? Do we recognize that our Advent season is, in a sense, a perpetual one? 

Sunday’s gospel is the opening passage from the Gospel of Mark. In these verses, we are introduced to John the Baptist, the greatest of the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 11:11). John’s mission had been foretold centuries before by the prophet Isaiah (Mark 1:2–3). His role was unique; he prepared people for the coming of the Messiah, as the prophets before him, and he personally introduced and interacted with Jesus. Though this week’s gospel passage is short, we learn several important qualities of Saint John: 

He lived a life of self-denial and asceticism (Mark 1:6).
He recognized the importance of repentance as a necessary component of our relationship with Jesus (Mark 1:4).
He pointed others back to God (Mark 1:7). 

John the Baptist took his mission seriously. As disciples of Christ, ours is much the same: prepare the way of the Lord and herald the King. We can learn from this saint’s life so that we, too, can prepare the way of the Lord this Advent and beyond. 

Self Denial
Particularly during Advent and the Christmas season, it is easy to be distracted by the things of the world and to put our time and energy into material goods that, ultimately, will not be coming with us when we pass on to the next life. While we are not called to eat locusts and wear camel’s hair (Mark 1:6), we can choose to practice a certain level of detachment from materialism and willingly choose sacrificial acts. Perhaps you skip that morning latte once a week, or instead of spending time scrolling your phone at the end of your day, you pray with the Rosary or the Be Still devotional. It doesn’t have to be big to be meaningful. What is one way you can deny yourself this Advent? 

Repentance
John’s message is one of repentance (Mark 1:4). He understood that in order to encounter Christ, we need to repent of our sins. We should frequently examine our conscience and turn to our loving God, who offers us mercy and forgiveness. But there is a special joy to be found when we intentionally reconcile with the Lord during Advent, for Jesus was born so that we might be freed from the chains of sin and death. And though it may be uncomfortable, we can lovingly encourage others to also turn away from sin. Between now and Christmas, when can you receive the sacrament of Reconciliation? Is there someone in your life whom you could invite to join you? 

Directing Others to Jesus
By virtue of our Baptism, the sacrament that John foretold (Mark 1:8), we are called to be disciples and bring people to Jesus. “The baptized have become ‘living stones’ to be ‘built into a spiritual house.’"[1] As a result, we are partakers in Jesus' mission to lead souls to heaven. By proclaiming the extraordinary deed of God, we can be beacons of light in the darkness. We should seize the opportunity to introduce people to the gospel's good news and share with others how our lives have been transformed because of our relationship with Christ. Is there someone that you can invite to join you for Mass one Sunday or invite them to attend a Walking with Purpose Bible study with you? 

Food for thought or journaling . . .

Of the three ways that John the Baptist calls us to prepare, which one do you struggle with the most? Why?

Saint John the Baptist, guide me this Advent so that, like you, I can prepare myself and others for the coming of Christ. 

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), #1268.

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