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Sunday Scripture: Prepare the way of the Lord

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

Second Sunday of Advent: Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 126:1-6; Philippians 1:4-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-6

A wonderful guest is coming, and the time of preparation for the event is full of joy and excitement. However, from our point of time in history the guest is already here. What we will celebrate is the joy of His presence throughout time and eternity.

In announcing the fulfillment of messianic expectations the preaching of John the Baptist becomes a focal point for the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. Our Gospel writer sets the scene of preparation by using a passage from Second Isaiah to signal the coming of the Messiah. The prophet was actually talking about the restoration of Israel in about 537 BCE or so. Luke was talking about the salvation of the world, and he presented it in the context of the theme of promise and fulfillment. The One who was promised by the prophets through the ages was near at hand. That approach also embraced a prophetic theme of universalism, for salvation would be available to all humankind (Luke 3:6).

The tone of the preaching of John the Baptist suggests moral and spiritual renewal. He went into all the regions around the Jordan preaching a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, there is a theme of judgment that surfaces in the text.

The people asked John what they needed to do in order to receive the salvation of God. John’s response called for the practice of virtue in everyday situations. In contrast to the powers in the social order with which the people were familiar, Luke has John present the authority of the Word/word of God.

A new type of messianism had come upon the scene. It was the Baptist who set in motion the great forward thrust in salvation history by announcing the arrival of the Messiah in person who in Isaiah’s terminology was Emmanuel, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).

Our first reading from the beautiful Book of Baruch follows a wisdom poem (Baruch 3:9-4:4) and presents a theme of comfort and restoration. This again is a reference to the return of the Babylonian exiles to their own land and to the city of Jerusalem. The sacred writer uses language that emphasizes the glory that comes from God, the glory of the everlasting God, and such upbuilding concepts as the peace of righteous and the glory of godliness. We hear also of the mercy and righteousness that come from God and will lead all of God’s people with joy in the light of His glory (Baruch 5:1-9).

All of those expressions point for us to the readings that we look forward to in the joyous Christmas season. So, while Advent is a season of moral and spiritual renewal, it has a tone of excitement, and we can use our holiday preparations as a way of focusing on the good news of our salvation.

Even our psalm response reminds us that the Lord has done great things for us. We can be glad and rejoice in the goodness of the Lord (Psalm 126).

Sister Betty Jane is a member of the faculty at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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