Welcome back to these daily blogs! Why have I chosen the Gospel of Mark? Well, because it is a hugely important Gospel, the first of what are termed the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. These are so-called because they are so closely linked. Of Mark's 661 verses Matthew reproduces 606 and Luke 320! There are only twenty four verses in Mark which are not reproduced in one or the other of those two Gospels! Mark was the first to be written and it is clear that Mark-who was a very young man during the ministry of Jesus and is first referred to as being invited on the first missionary journey of Paul in Acts 12 v 25-took his information from the apostle Peter. You will find Mark an exciting read, full of short, punchy sentences and movement. Mark doesn't look at all at Christ's birth, but plunges in right at the start of Jesus' ministry. Let's look at these opening four verses: although I've said already that Mark begins his Gospel at the start of Christ's ministry, he does refer to the prophets of long ago and, by implication, it was in the mind of God long, long ago before that! Mark quotes from the prophecy of Malachi, although in Malachi's writing it is a threat, whereas Mark presents it as a kind of blessings with strings attached! When Christ is allowed to come into the hearts of men and women, the antiseptic of the Christian faith cleanses the moral poison of society and leaves it pure and clean. Mark introduces John the Baptist who came to prepare the way for Christ's coming by announcing a baptism of repentance-already the cleansing, purifying work of God had begun. Now Jews knew about ceremonial washings and the baptism of Gentile proselytes-non-Jews who wanted to join the Jewish faith. However, John, a Jew, was asking other Jews to submit to that which only Gentiles were supposed to need. John had made the discovery that to be a Jew due to birth was not to automatically become a member of God's chosen people-which was the assumption-only those cleansed of their sins were permitted to be children of God. The baptism was accompanied by confession, to themselves; to those whom that person had wronged and to God. It is when we admit: ''I have sinned'', that God can say: ''I forgive''. And this is a guaranteed response from a loving, giving God! Thus the Gospel of Mark begins with what makes it Good News: that the way to God is open to all!