The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight,’ ” so John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean region and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”Scripture Reading
Mark 1:1-8 (NRSV)
The second Sunday of Advent is called the Sunday of Peace.
Ewan ko sa inyo, pero sa akin, parang frustrating si peace. When we say peace, kapayapaan, may feeling siya na parang dapat present moment siya. A state of being or something that should be now.
Kaya siya frustrating. Kasi, we are not surrounded by peace.
At this very moment, sa mismong oras na ito, ang patayan ay por kilo. People are being killed by the 10s, by the 20s, and the 100s in a single day, and a thousand in a week, several thousands in a month, in the place where Jesus was born. In the places where Jesus walked.
So where is peace?
Does peace mean the absence of conflict, problems, and troubles? Not necessarily.
Isa sa mga kantang sikat tuwing pasko ay ‘Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit.’
At ang may part na, “Habang ang mundo’y tahimik.”
Eh, hindi nga tahimik ang mundo. Parang noong pandemic lang, Pasko ng 2020, slightly natahimik ang mundo. Pero ngayon, balik siya sa dati niyang ingay at kaguluhan.
And the factual truth of the matter is, neither was the time of Jesus peaceful.
Pinalaki tayo sa kwento na para bang napaka-peaceful noong pinanganak si Hesus.
Christmas 2,000 years ago was as violent as it is today. But maybe even more today. Ngayon, you have weapons of mass destruction, and killing an entire people can just be one click of a button away.
Kaya hindi ba kayo nagtataka why our reading last week is about what others interpreted as end of the world? The words of Jesus, saying about signs and wonders of the impending end of the world. And imagined today as unspeakable death and destruction.
Nakakapagtaka, magpapasko, ‘yon ‘yong reading for hope. A Sunday lectionary reading for Advent in preparation for Christmas is end of the world.
But our reading today is another weird thing. And it is the very beginning chapter of the Gospel of Mark. The first Gospel written. And it is a dangerous one.
The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God – sa first century, kapag nabuksan mo ‘yan at nabasa mo ang unang linya lang – the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, Son of God, baka itatapon mo ‘yong scroll, o susunugin mo.
It is a dangerous gospel. It is a dangerous text that will get you arrested, and possibly killed.
The possession of the scroll that declares this is of someone that was crucified as an enemy of the empire. It can get your arrested and can get you killed, because the title “Son of God” is the title of The Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor is the Son of God.
“Filius Deus” in Latin or “Huios Theos” in Greek.
It belongs to the Roman Emperor, so anyone claiming to be Son of God is an act of treason, and for the Jews, it is blasphemy.
Then the beginning chapter speaks about another person who was also considered an enemy of the establishment and was later beheaded. John the Baptist was considered an enemy of the state, of the establishment and was beheaded for it.
John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth were considered as disturbers of the peace. And yet, the first century Christians called Jesus as the “Prince of Peace.”
Bakit? Because there are two kinds of peace.
Ang una, peace na kawalan ng kaguluhan, pero kaya walang kaguluhan, because it is based on terror. Bakit peaceful sa Jerusalem two thousand years ago? Kasi bago ka pumasok ng Jerusalem, dadaan ka muna doon sa isang hilera ng mga nakapako sa krus. At ‘yong mga nakahilera doon na nakapako sa krus, lahat ‘yon ay considered na mga rebelde.
Kawalan ng kaguluhan that is based on terror, oppression, and silencing of dissent. And therefore, matatawag ba nating kapayapaan ‘yon? Kung ang kapayapaan ay dahil takot ka? Kapayapaan na nagmumula sa pagpapatahimik ng mga nagpupumiglas, walang tunay na kapayapaan kung ang tao ay walang sapat na kabuhayan, walang pantay na karapatan, at walang kalayaan.
The kind of peace where everyone has enough to eat, wars cease, and all creation lives in harmony and diversity – ang mga taong nagnanais ng ganitong kapayapaan, like Jesus and John, will always be considered as disturbers of the world’s peace.
Saying that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus is the Son of God is a declaration of assurance and promise. That perhaps, in the midst of so many terrible things happening, then and today, and around us. Jesus, the one who ate with sinners and befriended prostituted women, samaritans, tax collectors, and the one who touched lepers, is the Son of God. The good news there is that God took the side of the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. The good news is for those that this world has rejected, abandoned, the exploited, and those that this world considered unworthy and unacceptable. And that includes almost all of you. LGBTQIA+ community. Our peace in the midst of discrimination and marginalization, if you may not be aware of it, or do not always experience it. Our peace that is Jesus the Messiah, eats and drinks with us. Those that are considered sinners by the temple priests of today. The coming of Jesus Christ is really a disturbance of the Roman Peace, that was based on injustice, based on slavery, based on occupation. Jesus and John the Baptist disturbed that kind of peace. But we know that as Jesus disturbed the peace of the mighty and the powerful, a new community of people who practiced radical hospitality, welcome, and care was formed around this very title.
In the Book of Acts in chapter 2 and chapter 4, it is said that the early Christian community shared everything in common, and they ate their food with glad and satisfied hearts. They found peace and joy among themselves in their community, a community that was formed out of the dangerous title: Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.
And so, the second peace, our peace in the midst of terrible things happening is with one another and by staying together.
Kaya it is only possible for individuals and groups to survive. It is only possible na kahit papaano, nakakapagsaya pa tayo, despite ng mga personal at societal problems natin. It is because we have each other. Because we meet week after week. Hindi lang sa simbahan. Hindi lang dahil sa ritwal. Because we continue to be a safe space, that in the all the troubles of the world, we can still come together. Tell stories. Listen to one another’s struggles. Eat our food, with glad and satisfied hearts. Despite all the problems.
The peace that the dangerous Gospel of Mark offers is the promise and the declaration that Jesus goes ahead of us. Si Hesus ay nauuna na sa atin. In everything we do, and everywhere we go, as individual Christians and as a community of faith.
The Gospel of Mark ends with the empty tomb, and an instruction for the women and the other followers to go back to Galilee, because Jesus goes ahead of them. And we’ll meet them there.
Therefore, ‘yong kapayapaan natin, sa kabila ng mga kaguluhan at agam-agam, ay dapat nakakapit sa pangako na si Hesus ay pinangungunahan na tayo, At nauna na siya, at nangako siyang tayo ay tatagpuin sa kung saan niya tayo pinapupunta. Ito man ay delikado, o masalimuot na paglalakbay. Nauuna na siya.
The Risen One, The Resurrected Jesus goes ahead of us, where God, where Jesus wants us to go.
The first lines of the Gospel of Mark is dangerous. It is thoroughly not a happy one. If we really know how it was in the first century. But instead of fear and frustration that there is so much terror in the world, like the first Christians, we must find our peace and assurance of what the statement declares.
Our faith, and indeed, our life is in Jesus Christ. The one who died, and the one who rose again.
The Prince of Genuine Peace who continues to seek justice, joy, dignity, and fullness of life for every human being, and for all of the creation. Kasama tayo.
In the midst of all the death and suffering; our faith, our life, our community is in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God. And he will always have good news for you and for me. For us.
But also good news through each one of us.