When a president is scheduled to make a visit, his staff prepares weeks in advance to make sure that proper protocol is observed and maximum security is assured. They procure detailed maps of the area, they visit and designate various routes and search out venues. Guards are posted in selective spots.
Every eventuality, both good and bad, is anticipated, all in an effort to make the event as uneventful as possible. Similarly detailed preparations precede the appearance of religious leaders like the Pope and the Queen of England. Regardless of how painstakingly detailed and arduous all of these preparatory efforts might be, they are all concerned with mere ‘external and short-term fixes’ that fade into memory once the expected guests have left. These efforts fall short of the quality of preparedness required for us who wish to welcome life’s ultimate Guest, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Our preparedness has to begin from within.
First reading: Baruch 5:1-9
For most of us; this is the time of the year when we go into our closets to retrieve special dresses that say Christmas is coming! Images of Baba Christmas, Christmas trees, cakes and twinkling lights adorn the occasion that we would not show at any other time of the year. Somehow, given the joyousness and anticipatory excitement of the season, these outfits seem quite appropriate. Without speaking a word, they colorfully announce that God-with-us, is near.
Prophet Baruch was intent on calling his contemporaries to celebrate their experience of God in a similar way around 200 B.C though the language and imagery he applied borrows from the exile and of the Israelites’ joyous home coming. This was intended to encourage those willing to return not to lose heart. Baruch was sure that God would bring about a happy homecoming no matter where they were returning from; thus the invitation to put off misery and shame in exchange for glad rags, wrappings of glory and justice. In this way they would stand up and witness to what God has done thus calling forth all nations to share their experience.
In this way, Baruch reminds us that although we have here no enduring home, we are never bereft of the presence of God; Instead our way been mapped out with provisions made available to cater for every human need. Baruch therefore, becomes one of those books for those who need physical emotional and spiritual support for their desired destination especially when traveling in unfriendly society. Baruch encourages us to a) Pray in whatever situation we find ourselves in because God has the answer; b) to take recourse to scriptural tradition where we find every life lesson; c) to remain people of Hope even when we face opposition and discouragement;
- d) to remain Humble so that through his mercy God can forgive and save us. This is what it means to exchange the robe of misery for an outfit of glorious splendor. Here, in the emptiness that only God can fill; a disciple then begins to grow.
Second reading: Philippians 1:3-6, 8-11
Today’s second reading, Paul explains the process of sustaining a disciple as joyful prayer assuring his audience that this would go on until Christ returns of Christ. Prayer made the Philippians fervent and a faithful Christians to the extent of serving as Paul’s model when explaining who the children of God were. Because of their thorough commitment to Christ and to the Gospel, Paul was unabashedly willing to hold them as a model to be emulated. Paul’s ministry in Philippi had succeeded in convincing them to ambles the good news of salvation because it was truly God’s work. This good work in progress had been begun and would be brought to fulfillment by God who turns life of every believer into an act of worship.
Like any good pastor, Paul understood that his role was representative in nature; that the Gospel he preached was not his own agenda but Jesus’. It was not his own will he sought to realize but God’s, and it was also with God’s eyes, God’s ears, God’s hands and God’s heart that he continued to minister to all of them. This God wanted them to love each other. It is in this true love that they would remain alert on the fact of “the day of Christ” Philippians 1:10. This second advent of Jesus also referred to as end-of-time would make all achieve perfect goodness.
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
Although this Gospel is proclaimed in six verses, some of us are likely to pass quickly over the initial verses and focus on the final three wherein John the Baptist evokes the words of prophet Isaiah and claims them as his job description. John’s is the voice of Advent and his mission is unmistakable; he is the herald of the Savior and the precursor of the kingdom of God. But Luke has prefaced his introduction of John and his mission with information concerning the political and religious leaders of the time. The respective reigns of these leaders and the venues over which they presided were to provide Jesus with the foothold upon which he would find the leverage to move the world as it had never been moved before.
Luke’s foothold has been described in terms of a specific historic time and place: the 15th year of Tiberius, that is, 28-29 A.D. Annas, who served as high priest officially from 6-15 A.D., was succeeded by his son-in-law Caiaphas, who served until 36 A.D. However, as reflected in the Gospels, most regarded Annas as the high priest until he died. In offering this detailed account, Luke was affirming the fact that Jesus and his mission made definite inroads into human history. He was not a fictional character dreamed into being in the wishful imaginations of the oppressed. Jesus was real flesh and blood figure whose presence in time and space cannot be diminished or dismissed. In his portrayal of Jesus, Luke was anticipating the conviction that he would later place on the lips of Paul when he appeared before King Agrippa to defending his preaching of the Good News. When accused of being mad and of propagating falsehood, Paul declared that “this was not done in a corner” Acts 26:26. The presence and power of Jesus had been openly manifested to all in real time and real space; therefore, Jesus and the entire Christ-event could not be written off. On the contrary, the impact of Jesus was authentic, palpable and demanded a response.
Luke’s portrayal of Jesus, also anticipated the mission of the Church and the various political and religious arenas where the Good News would exert its influence. By referencing both Jerusalem and Rome, Luke affirmed that the disciples who would continue Jesus’ mission would encounter not only the poor and the sick but also high priests, governors and emperors. They and their message would impinge upon and speak to the secular as well as the sacred realms of their day. Luke wished his audience to be certain from the outset that Jesus’ mission and that of the disciples after him would be all-inclusive and universal not only in a geographic sense but also socially, politically and economically. With this affirmation, Jesus’ disciples who continued his mission; Luke also extends a challenge to our present Church. In order to be true to our roots, we are to preach and propagate the good news until all flesh will see the salvation of God. Advent is here for us, let us be formed by it to know, to love and serve the lord our God with cheerful hearts.
God equips us with all we need to continue on our journey of salvation; what is expected of us is responsible participation. On this journey, more than anything else we need prayer and commitment. Our salvation is marked by the history that we live in; we need not to loose focus on it so that we can know how to respond.