Jesus is the salvation of God in person. And only those who repent and renew themselves personally will see and receive God’s salvation.
The word of God comes to John. This, along with the reference to contemporary history, suggests that he is a prophet. So, he is on the same footing as the earlier prophets. For the word of God came to each one of them personally, in each one’s own historical situation (Is. 38, 4; Jer 1, 2; Ez 1, 3; Hos 1, 1; Joel 1, 1; Mich 1, 1; Zeph 1, 1; Hag 2, 10; Zech 1, 1).
As a prophet, John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. His preaching is the fulfillment also of the prophecy in Is. 40, 35. In other words, the Baptist’s raison d’être is to prepare the people. He readies them, so that they may see and receive Jesus who is himself the salvation that comes from God.
So then, John calls us to repentance, that is to say, to a change of mind, heart and behavior. And it is to this change that his baptism points precisely.
How do we respond personally to the voice that cries out in the desert?
The question is a matter for next Sunday’s Gospel reading. In today’s Gospel reading, however, John simply urges us to become straight roads and smooth ways. Furthermore, he asks us to prepare a path in our hearts for the coming of God’s Word (see the Morning Prayer intercessions for Tuesday, First Week of Advent). The Baptizer tells us also to bring low the mountains of our pride and fill up the valleys of our weakness. He wants all, and not just some, to see personally God’s salvation.
Yes, John calls our attention to the coming of God’s Word, Jesus, to make history in a definitive way. And rulers like Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip and Lysanias will not do in the new order that Jesus is to bring in. And there will be no room either for the priests who offer sacrifices in Jerusalem or on Mount Gerizim.
That is because the new order will be about serving personally, and not about being served. Moreover, it will be about giving one’s life personally as a ransom for others, as worship in Spirit and truth. All this, of course, means that the only kingship and priesthood that will matter will be Jesus’ kingship and priesthood.
The question now, then, is: Are we ready for this new creation and its universal kingship and priesthood? God is about to bring us back aloft in glory as on kingly thrones. Indeed, we have to be pure, blameless and righteous for the day of Christ.
Lord Jesus, help us to recognize you, as did St. Vincent de Paul, in those who are poor (SV.EN XI:26). May each one of us personally contemplate you also and serve you in them. And may we be united with you and them someday in your kingdom.
9 December 2018
Second Sunday of Advent (C)
Bar 5, 1-9; Phil 1, 4-6. 8-11; Lk 3, 1-6
Tags: A Vincentian reading of the Sunday readings, Ross Dizon