Donald F. Reilly, O.S.A.
Malvern Preparatory School
Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6.
Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
Our Gospel for today begins with a litany of names and titles. Homilists do not like lists! Proclaiming these tongue-twisting names seems unnecessary and an awkward preface to the meat of the passage. Perhaps Luke was a history buff, but is it important to anyone else? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” Luke, by setting the preparation for the advent of Jesus Christ in the context of world history and the universal purpose of God, says that the gospel belongs to all people. The gospel is for the world. This is God’s gift to God’s creation.
Luke preserves these names of influential people for posterity because of their influenceupon the lives of John and Jesus. The gospel will not only encounter the poor, lame, halt, and blind, but also the synagogue rulers, high priests, governors, kings, treasurers, city officials, imperial guards, and finally the emperor himself. Luke is also speaking to the covenant community: “the Word of God came to John.” John’s ministry is the fulfillment of the collective prophetic voice: “Prepare a way for the Lord; clear a straight path for him.” Lukelater designates John’s preaching as “the Good News.”
Our first reading from Baruch, probably the least known of all the books of the Bible, is clear and unambiguous: A mourning and dispirited Jerusalem and people will have cause for celebration because God is about to act to bring those people home. The God of mercy and righteousness will not leave God’s people scattered in exile. What a wonderful message for Advent. It evokes hope and expectation in the hearts of those of us who wait for the coming of Jesus, those of us who sometimes feel we are in exile in a strange land following a crooked path.
Our second reading from Paul’s letter to the Philippians expresses affections generated by a long-standing relationship. Paul is not writing to a church he has only recently established, but to a church he has known for years. He received their money, their prayers, and their loving concern. It is a genuine partnership that existed between Paul and his supporting church that accounts for the intimate tone of this prayer. Every time he thought of them he became thankful. Every time he prayed for them, it was an occasion of joy. His bond with them is one of pure affection: “You have a permanent place in my heart, and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you.” The Advent pearl of wisdom for us is that “...on the Day of Christ you will be flawless and without blame, reaping the full harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
What is the Good News proclaimed by Luke, spoken to those in physical and virtual exile by Baruch, and in supportive communities like Philippi in which we minister?
“Every crevice shall be filled in, and every mountain and hill leveled; the corners shall be straightened, and the rugged ways made smooth; and all humanity shall see God’s Deliverance.”
Advent is a time to renew and deepen our relationship with God. It is a time of patient waiting for God, prayerful and trusting waiting for God. Because the season of Advent is so important the Church gives us four weeks to celebrate it. Celebrate Advent with your heart, it is an opportunity to step back from that which preoccupies and distracts us daily and make a straight way for the Lord to receive the special grace God has planned for you this Advent.
The most important people in our world are not those who are in positions of power but those who have powerful positions in our personal lives. The gift of John the Baptist to us is that he gave voice to the Word which stands forever. The Eternal Word of God remains with us until the end of time.
May our prayer in this Eucharist and every day of our lives be: “Come, Lord Jesus.”