Saturday within the Octave of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord
Scripture: St. Mark 1 (NKJV)
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets:
“Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.”
3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'”
4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. 8 I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
12 Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. 13 And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
16 And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
19 When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. 27 Then they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee.
29 Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. 31 So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.
32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.
35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. 37 When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for You.”
38 But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”
39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.
40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” 42 As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed. 43 And He strictly warned him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
45 However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.
The beginning of the Gospel. The start of good news. How does it begin? It begins with what seems to be the “anti-gospel”: all should make it smooth-going for Yahweh to enter and rule!
Yet, John is proclaiming not “improvement by good works,” but forgiveness of sins! His “repent” means: “Stop doing the things you think will make you happy, that always fall short and leave you condemned; also stop trying to make God pleased with you, as you will never accomplish it. Instead, have your heart and mind freed from such preoccupation by trusting in what the Lord says He will here provide you—the washing away of your sins!”
People often think of John: “Oh, he must be holy; look at how he lives! In a world of materialism, he is so spiritual!” Yet, John confesses that he is unworthy and that the One Who gives his Baptism power is the “normal looking one” coming after him, whose sandals neither John nor his hearers are fit to untie.
St. Mark makes it clear that doubters are foolish, because John isn’t the only one to testify of Jesus: the Father and the Spirit testify when John baptizes Him, and everything else the people see Him do in this chapter declares Who He is—even the demons must say it, along with all who hear His teaching!
We pray: We thank You, dear Lord Jesus, that what we would only make rougher by our works You have made perfect by Yours, showing clearly what the Gospel is: that You give the forgiveness of sins and true sonship through faith in Your having redeemed us by the shedding of Your most holy blood, You Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, reign unto all eternity. Amen.