Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6; Luke 3:1-6
The first reading today is from the prophet Baruch. This book is not considered by the Hebrews to be part of their Bible. It is instead, considered as an apocryphal literature. Apocryphal books or literature are those books that are not accepted as part of the Bible. The Books called the Apocrypha consist of 14 books originally attached to the Greek Old Testament that were not in the Hebrew-written Bible. That is because they were "first-written" in the Greek language. They were considered scripture and used as such by the Jews of the Dispersion (Jews living in foreign countries) at the time of Christ. Baruch is a beautiful reading and a beautiful choice to be read thematically with our Gospel of today. It picks up the themes of Isaiah and as already mentioned, is directed at Jews of the dispersion or the Jews living in foreign countries.
Since Luke’s Gospel addresses those outside of the Jewish nations, this is a good reading to connect. The first reading expresses great hope and expectation of a Savior who will come from the east like the dawn. This Gospel identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. In today's Gospel reading, as elsewhere, John the Baptist is presented as the figure who bridges the time before Christ and prepares the way for Christ's own ministry. He pays attention to political and historical detail. Luke shows that salvation is for all people and situated in world events. Therefore, Luke lists the political and religious leaders at the time of John's appearance in the desert. Salvation is understood as God's breaking into this political and social history.
John the Baptist's preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of the Advent season. What is it that we must do today to prepare ourselves for Jesus coming? How can we apply what the Baptist was doing to our lives today? We are invited to get ready. That is particularly why these readings were picked today. And how do we get ready? We turn away from our sins, from the distracting things of our material lives, and turn toward God, asking His pardon and forgiveness in so far as we pardon and forgive others in our life. Can we spend the time this Advent preparing for letting go of feelings that we have been wronged by someone, find forgiveness and let it go. Find a way to make peace with the things in our life that are holding us back – a relative we haven’t spoken to, a neighbor we are angry with, a co-worker that has slighted us or driven us crazy. Is it the cankerworm called anger or bitterness that is our big problem at the moment?
When things are bad in our lives, when we feel down because of the economy, because of the political situation, because of the daily grind, we can take off our clothing of misery, Baruch says, and realize that turning to God, turning to the East, will help us rejoice that we are remembered by God, that God will conquer all these things and that in his coming we will see the light of his glory, his mercy and his justice – the same message that John the Baptist was bringing to his followers
Let us turn to God and prepare our hearts to receive him again at Christmas, with peace inside of us, leaving the sadness that is stopping us from really living, leveling the mountains and valleys of our lives and in that way, we will be ready for the coming of the little child who will be born in you again this year.
In addition to this, this week's reading and next, invite us to consider John's relationship with Jesus. John the Baptist appears in the tradition of the great prophets, preaching repentance and reform to the people of Israel. To affirm this, Luke quotes at length from the prophet Isaiah. John baptizes for repentance and for forgiveness of sins, preparing the way for God's salvation.
As John's message prepared the way for Jesus, we too are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus' coming. We respond to John's message by repentance and reform of our lives. We are also called to be prophets of Christ, who announce by our lives the coming of the Lord, as John did.