Mark 1: 1-8
1 Beginning of the good news of Jesus Messiah and Son of God. 2 As it is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
Here I am sending my messenger in front of you
4 John the Baptist appears in the desert and announces aloud a baptism of new direction to one's life in order to to be liberated from previous waywardnesses. 5. Crowds came from all over the region of Judea and Jerusalem to go to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan River by confessing their previous waywardnesses. 6 John was wearing a camel's skin and a leather belt on the kidneys, feeding himself on grasshoppers and wild honey. 7 And he was saying aloud: "After me comes someone stronger than me, of whom I am not worthy, after bending over, to untie the straps from his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Who is the strongest? who will win?
Gospel commentary - Homily
A Good News For Whom?
In the Near East and North Africa, there is a whole generation that lives in expectation: waiting for a good education, waiting for a good job, waiting to be able to leave the family to marry, and more than anything, the expectation of this freedom which will enable her to participate in a free vote, in political life, and thus, perhaps, to change the world. And she's getting impatient. For this generation, what would be the announcement of good news? Probably, freedom, and with it economic conditions that would integrate it to the collective wealth, both cultural and material. But Mark is precisely beginning his Gospel saying that he has good news to communicate. Is this good news is the one so long awaited by our generation?
For the word Gospel is the translation of a Greek word, in fact a compound of two words: eu and aggelion, which means good news or announcement. And Mark writes: "Beginning of the good news of Jesus Messiah (or Christ, i.e. the anointed one) and Son of God. If we understand Mark well, the good news comes from the existence of Jesus who is the promised messiah and the Son of God. Would such a proclamation please our waiting generation? Probably not. And let's be true ourselves: the announcement of a job, the birth of a child, a promotion, a love or the return of a great friend arouses much more emotion than the announcement what is Marc doing to us? Why?
First, let's think back to our religious context a few years ago. What was the meaning of Jesus' presence? Here is what the old catechism of Quebec (1945) answered: "Jesus Christ redeemed us from eternal damnation, to which we were all committed by the disobedience of Adam, our first father". So the bad news was that, without knowing it, we were doomed to hell after our death; the good news was that Jesus had redeemed us by the merits of his suffering and death, and so we could hope to go to heaven. You will have noticed that, both on the side of damnation and on the side of salvation, everything happens after this life. But when the evangelist Marc speaks of good news, it is for today, for now, not only for the afterlife.
What is this good news? Mark answers, "Hush! It's a secret. This is why his story begins with the so-called precursor, John the Baptist, whose role is to prepare people to understand Jesus' attitude and message. Because it takes a certain evolution of the heart to open up to what Jesus proposes. Thus John the Baptist proclaims a baptism of new life positioning. In other words, if the purpose of your life is the maximum of money or power or pleasure, then Jesus has nothing to bring you and you will understand nothing of what he says. No good news for you! But we can recognize that part of this generation, who lives in expectation, has already embarked on this baptism of new life positioning. Yet, all of this is still insufficient to understand Jesus.
John the Baptist says: "After me comes someone stronger than me... he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. What is this baptism in the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the very love of God poured into our hearts. This love is different from others because it is unconditional and it is limitless. It is this love that has accompanied Jesus throughout his life and that has led him to put people back up and heal them. Today, two thousand years later, if we open ourselves to this same word, it is because the same love lives in us: we are the sons and daughters of God. Thus, we are never alone: we are inhabited by a presence that gives us strength and life. Here is our greatness, here is our identity, here is an extraordinary news. However, even with this understanding of things, we have not yet fully grasped the secret that Marc wants to speak about.
To truly understand this secret, one must be able to open oneself to what constituted the last moments of Jesus' life, his humiliations, his loneliness, his rejection, his sufferings and his death. Why? Here, unfortunately, we are facing the very mystery of the existence of this world. But nevertheless, we can say this: Jesus remained faithful to love to the end despite the hate and the suffering, and this love was a source of life so fruitful that it is really able to transform the world, and it will never die. This was eventually understood by his disciples after his resurrection. Their good news? Neither hatred, nor suffering, nor death can prevent the final victory of this love.
All of us, with this generation that wants to change the world, would like a messiah who comes with strength and transforms things in record time. It is here that we have a lot to learn from the child, the baby. As a grandfather, I am surprised that my little girl takes so long to do what I can do. She is tiny, she is fragile, she has pain in her teeth that grow. Yet imperceptibly it is she who transforms me. Yes, love will win. But by another way than we would like. Is our faith goes that far?
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, August 2011