Reading 1: Baruch: 5:1-9
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6
Reading 2: Philippians: 1:4-6, 8-11
Gospel: Luke: 3:1-6
Let us begin with the powerful images drawn from Isaiah 40:3-5 which are linked with the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist in our gospel reading from Luke for the Second Sunday of Advent. “Prepare the way of the Lord.… Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth….” I still have vivid memories from my years in Papua New Guinea (PNG) over forty years ago of roads being cut through tropical forests and over streams and steep hills. How do these images from Isaiah/Luke and PNG invite us to reflect upon the implications of “preparing the way of the Lord” for us as Christian individuals and families during this time of Advent? What are the hills of self-centeredness and pride that need leveling and the deep valleys of depression, addictive patterns, and poor self-esteem that need to be acknowledged and filled? What are the rough ways of broken relationships, loss, and trauma (due to COVID), that need to be smoothed out and healed?
The first reading from Baruch provides similar images that “every mountain be made low, and the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God” (5:7). According to the introduction, the author was writing to Jerusalem from a Jewish community in Babylon who had been deported. I suggest that we are invited to move from not only a personal and family level of reflection to include also the broader context of our society and church when we reflect on the implications of “preparing the way of the Lord.” Can we apply the “level ground” of Baruch to “creating a level playing ground,” in our common language today? The past twenty months have made us more aware of the “age-old depths and gorges” of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and all forms of prejudice from our “us-them” categories in our institutions, country and Church itself.
In the face of these challenges, we are reminded that our God is calling us to participate in God’s vision that is “leading Israel in joy” (Baruch 5:7) and all flesh to see the salvation of God (Lk 3:6) in a holistic way. The words of Paul to the Philippian community from the second scriptural reading today provides us with some suggestions for “preparing the way of the Lord.” Paul begins by assuring his listeners that “the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it” (1:6). We are to have faith and hope in God’s Spirit at work within and around us already now. Furthermore, on our part, our love needs to “increase ever more and more in knowledge and ever kind of perception, to discern what is of value” (1:9). Deepening our individual and communal love impacts not only our hearts, but also our heads and hands (actions) during the process of sincere discernment and change. Our participation in “preparing the way of the Lord” this Advent is to be grounded in an increased sense of faith, hope, and love.
Rev. Roger Schroeder, SVD