With grateful hearts we bow to St. Matthew as we take leave of him for a while. His absence will be filled by St. Mark who will be our leader and guide as we journey through this new year. St. Mark has much to teach us, and we have much to learn. The Gospel of St. Mark tells the story of Jesus, the Beloved Son of God. All good stories are good when the one telling the story is also listening to it, or telling it to themselves. So please spend time in St. Mark’s company this year and, each week, prepare the Text chosen for the Sunday Eucharist in your prayer and reflection.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. The text chosen for today is high drama. We are commanded to ‘Be on our Guard’. Three times the Teacher tells us to ‘Stay Awake’ in the dark time of uncertainty. The importance of this is underlined by the ending, ‘What I say to you I say to all: Stay Awake!’ What’s all that about then?
St. Mark will be inviting us to listen to the conversations, encounters and teachings of Jesus that communicate spiritual wisdom. All of these are intended to bring the listener from blindness to sight, from deafness to hearing, from lost to found, from sleeping to awaking and from dead to risen. St. Mark wants us to pay close attention to the teaching style of the Master – how he gears what he says to the mindset of his listeners, how he gives them the power to have a breakthrough in understanding.
Jesus, the Teacher, isn’t just giving out information. Sitting at His feet, listening to His Word is an encounter with a higher consciousness which is bent on opening whoever is listening to the indwelling Spirit. Everything He says is geared towards the spiritual transformation of His disciples, crowds, religious authorities and individual seekers. To watch Him at work is to grasp the power of the Word made Flesh. Jesus is the embodiment of spiritual wisdom, bursting with grace upon grace and seeking to share its blessings.
Reuven Gold was a modern day sacred storyteller and spiritual teacher. Here is one of his stories.
A very advanced disciple was very distraught and pounded insistently on the door of their teacher’s house at midnight. The teacher opened the door. The house was in darkness, but the teacher held a candle in his hand. The disciple blurted out that they were filled with anxiety and had to see the teacher at once. The teacher opened wide the door. The disciple entered, and the teacher closed the door. Then the teacher blew out the candle.
Reuven tells the story and waits to hear what sense it makes to those who have heard it. Then in a loud voice he shouts, “Don’t worship your emotions!” His eyes widen. He grins then shakes with laughter. I got the story. I could see the disciples’ problem. I saw how flashes of light can push away the darkness. It was a momentary shining but not a steady seeing. St. Mark will teach us, if we let him, how to hold the light that never fails.