news channels have been filled in recent days with scenes of shelling
and gunfire in the Syrian city of Homs. It could be any city, because
past months and years have seemingly daily brought us similar scenes
from one city after another. We have become de-sensitized to seeing
destruction and hearing of violence. It seems to provide the background
noise of everyday life anymore. It wasn’t always so.
destruction of one capital city centuries ago brought the world to
shocked silence as it learned of its utter destruction. The
contemporary historian Flavius Josephus, writing just five years after
the events, provides a riveting chronicle of the destruction of
Jerusalem in the year 70.
The Roman General Titus had long lain
siege to the city. The stench of decaying bodies was said to be
intolerable, sickening all who passed near the city. When few were left
to defend it, Titus completed the ordeal, utterly destroying the city
and leaving it in complete desolation. A triumphal column was left by
the Tenth Roman Legion amidst the ruins, extolling the victory of Titus
and honoring Emperor Caesar Vespasian Augustus.
three towers to remain standing, so that all would see what a great city
Jerusalem had been, now fallen under the might of the Roman Legion.
The rest of the city was reduced to rubble, not one stone resting atop
another, except for the Western wall of the Temple. That wall is still
today called the “wailing wall” for the cries of suffering and despair
that followed the destruction of Jerusalem.
The great capital
city built by King David and strengthened by King Solomon, with its
wondrous Temple, , was gone. Where the Queen of Sheba had shaken her
head at the glories of Jerusalem, nothing remained. The streets where
prophets had walked, where schools of rabbis had taught, where great
commerce had been conducted daily and deals brokered, were all
destroyed. In the rubble nothing was recognizable. Nothing was left.
The few who dared come near the city wandered hopelessly, for their
eyes could alight on nothing hopeful, only devastation and death
surrounding them everywhere they looked or walked.
midst of this, one man dared place contrary thoughts into writing. To a
people for whom bad news greeted every turn or thought, for whom every
memory recounted the end of their way of life and the loss of a future,
Mark directed his Gospel to them, with its opening line: “The beginning
of the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Immediately, Jesus proclaims
and makes real His Good News, but asks each person He encounters to
keep it a secret. His mission in Mark’s understanding is not to preach
to a global economy about a new world order. His mission is to touch
the heart and mind and soul of one person at a time. With new hearts,
those persons will evangelize others. In time, the world will be
changed, but it all begins in the deep recesses of one person’s life.
His mission is to provide each person He meets with a new beginning.
Today, there may be much that tries to convince us that only bad news
surrounds us and pervades our world. We may worry that society has lost
its direction, its moral compass. We may have deep concern about the
tensions that exist on a global scale, and the fight to maintain our
Christian conscience in a land of liberty. With anxiety we may look at
those close to us and worry for them and their future.
precisely in the midst of our worry and fear that we should remember the
hopeful voice of the Gospel of Mark, “The beginning of the Good News of
Jesus Christ.” Will you be the next He will approach in His mission to
change hearts and lives? If so, open your heart and soul to Him and
hear anew the beginning of Good News for you.