Literature in the classical world was often concerned to set the scene and provide an overview of the whole text from the very first line of the text. When we come to a text like the Gospel of Mark, we may be tempted to pass over the opening line of the Gospel - which we are presented with in our liturgy today for the Second Sunday of Advent - but that would be a mistake. When Mark sits down to compose his Gospel - more than likely the very first gospel to be written - he was very aware of his context. Most likely he wrote the Gospel from Rome while still living there after the death several years before of both Peter and Paul - both as victims of the Roman regime. Sometimes this Gospel is called the 'Gospel of Peter', because it is seen to reflect the thought and teachings of St Peter, and St Mark acts as the compiler and scribe for the memories of his friend and great Apostle.
St Mark was aware of the claimed power of the Roman Emperor, who would claim to be the divine 'Lord' and the 'Son of God'; who would declare an advent before his arrival anywhere, and who would send out messengers (angelos in Greek) to announce the good news (euangelion) of a new military victory. So Mark carefully chooses to undermine the whole of Roman propaganda when his first line is:
"Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God".
Any book that is written to a Jewish audience and begins with 'Beginning' would automatically evoke the opening line of the very first book of Scripture - the creation poem in the book of Genesis: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth." St John will do something similar when he begins his gospel with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."
What does this beginning teach us?
Recorded at St Paul's, 8am (11'20")