In this week’s Gospel, we get a glimpse of Luke’s literary purpose of tying the inauguration of John the Baptist’s ministry to the wider world culture.
In today’s terms, imagine if he said something like this: “In the fourth year of President Obama, when Mark Dayton was governor of Minnesota, under the episcopacy of John Nienstedt, the word of the Lord came to John the Baptist on the corner of Snelling and University, ‘A voice crying out in Minnesota: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”
By situating the event within the arena of world history, Luke heightens the significance of the Word of God that comes to John.
Additionally, we catch a glimpse of Luke’s “great reversal” theme that runs throughout his Gospel.
For example, he places Isaiah 40:3-5 on the lips of John the Baptist in saying that whereas valleys will be “filled,” every mountain and hill shall be made “straight.”
In other words, John announces that the coming of the Lord will result in a reversal of fortunes in that the humble (valleys) will be “filled,” while the prideful (mountains) will be made “straight.”
The reader, for his or her part, has been prepared for this reversal in Mary’s “Magnificat,” wherein she says the Lord has “put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree” (Luke 1:46).
Finally, we learn from John the Baptist that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6). What Simeon had prophesied is now coming to fulfillment. For the child coming onto the scene will not only be the “glory for your people Israel,” but also a “light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 1:32). In John the Baptist’s ministry, this “word of salvation” (Acts 28:28) is slowly beginning to unfold.
Time with the Lord
John’s proclamation is quite fitting for us as we “prepare the way of the Lord” this Advent season.
One way we can do this, of course, is by taking some time in the “desert” like John the Baptist in sitting quietly and praying with the Lord. Without such prayer, like John, we cannot fulfill what the Lord asks of us. In prayer, the Lord can “lift us up” when we are feeling low or “bring us down from our thrones” when we are acting prideful.
Second, like John, we can read and enjoy the Sacred Scriptures each day. John was a man deeply immersed in the Word of God as evidenced by his ease of quoting the prophet Isaiah.
If you are not familiar with God’s Word, I suggest starting small by picking one book of the Bible and reading one chapter per day. This can be done either individually or together as a family. In doing so, pray confidently, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,” so that the word of God can come to you just as it did for John the Baptist.
Deacon Leonard Andrie is in formation for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish is St. Patrick in Inver Grove Heights, and his teaching parish is St. Odilia in Shoreview.
Sunday, Dec. 9
Second Sunday of Advent
- Baruch 5:1-9
- Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
- Luke 3:1-6
Review the readings for this Sunday’s Mass. What sentence or phrase stands out and speaks to you?