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Spiritual life

LECTIO DIVINA

The Good News Gift MARK 1:1-8

1 This is the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 It began as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“God said: ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you to open the way for you.’

3 Someone is shouting in the desert: ‘Get the road ready for the Lord; make a straight path for him to travel!’”

4 So John appeared in the desert, baptising and preaching. “Turn away from your sins and be baptised,” he told the people, “and God will forgive your sins.”

5 Many people from the province of Judea and the city of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They confessed their sins, and he baptised them in the Jordan River.

6 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.

7 He announced to the people: “The man who will come after me is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to bend down and untie his sandals.

8 I baptise you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.” Other readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85:8-13; 2 Peter 3:8-14 LECTIO Mark wastes no time with introductions. In the very first sentence he sets out the main focus: Jesus Christ. He boldly declares that Jesus is the Son of God, the Good News – euangelion, the word from which we get “Gospel”.

Mark then sets the scene for the story that is about to unfold. The main characters are God and his son Jesus, John the Baptist, and the people of Judea and Jerusalem. He reminds us that this story had its beginning within the Godhead. Hundreds of years earlier, God revealed insights about what would take place through the Old Testament prophets. Mark only mentions Isaiah, but it is plain from the words we find in verse 2 that he is drawing on Malachi 3:1, as well as Isaiah 40:3, for the rest of the prophecy in verse 3.

From the heavenly court the narrator jumps straight down to earth and the dusty Judaean desert. He reveals a man called John preaching “a baptism of repentance”. John’s ministry is very successful. People flock to the desert to hear him preach. Many respond and demonstrate their sincere repentance by being publicly baptised in the River Jordan.

Exciting though this is, Mark wants to get the focus back to the main subject: Jesus. So

Saint of the week St Finnian (December 12)

A gathering of birds During that vital period when Ireland kept much of Western civilisation alive, one of the most important early Irish saints helped to spread the faith in the Emerald Isle, founding Clonard Abbey.

St Finnian (also called Finian, Fionnán or Vennianus) was born at Myshall, County Carlow, in the fifth century, a time of chaos across western Europe.

His early life was surrounded by myth. One story has all the birds of Ireland gathering at his birthplace as a portent of what he would become. A perilous journey The saint was of noble blood; although patron of Meath, in the Irish midlands, he had connections across the island. At an early age he was placed under the care of the Bishop of Trim (then the capital of Meath). But as he reached adulthood, Finnian expressed an interest in travelling and would make the perilous journey to

Britain and Gaul, where he stayed at St Martin’s monastery in Tours. The young Irishman liked the austere feel of the place, but travel eventually brought him to Wales, where he remained in prayer at the monastery of Cadoc the Wise. Copying classics Finnian spent much of his time translating and making copies of Roman classics and biblical works. After 30 years, he returned home to preach, establishing his first monastery at Agheowle in Country Kerry, where he spent 16 years, before going to Kildare to teach at St Brigid’s monastery.

Finally, in 520, he built the abbey at Clonard, in Co Meath, which would teach the early saints known as the 12 Apostles of Ireland.

the second part of John’s message returns to the fulfilment of the prophetic words. John clearly proclaims that he is only preparing the way for someone else: someone who has not yet come into public life; someone who is far greater than even John; someone who will bring a greater baptism; someone who will baptise with the Holy Spirit. MEDITATIO Think about all the reasons Jesus is Good News. Why not start a list? During this Advent season, every time you see or hear something connected with Christmas spend a moment reflecting on one of these reasons. What is so compelling about John’s ministry that people abandon city life, however briefly, to spend time with John in the desert? ORATIO Ask Jesus to give you the Holy Spirit to guide you in your life each day. Ask the

Holy Spirit to help you follow Jesus more closely. CONTEMPLATIO The other readings this Sunday invite us to wait patiently for the Second Coming of Jesus. In the first reading, the comforting words of God in Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 tell the people of Jerusalem that their sins are forgiven. The second reading, which is from 2 Peter 3:8-14, urges us to live more hopeful lives as we wait for the second coming of Jesus.

Mgr Anthony Abela Lectio divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. © 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition © 1992 American Bible Society, New York

34 CATHOLIC HERALD, DECEMBER 5 2014

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