|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
| Bar 5:1-9
RCL: Mal 3:1-14
|Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6|| Phil 1:4-6, 8-11
RCL: Phil 1:3-11
Advent preparations: turning minds and hearts, clearing the road
During the Advent season the Lectionary readings present prophecies and exhortations about the Lord’s coming. This week’s readings ask the believing community to once again prepare the way for Jesus’ incarnation.
The first reading is from the prophet Baruch, a scribe and companion of Jeremiah. Baruch lived in the sixth century BC, but scripture scholars assign this work to an unknown author writing in the first or second century BC, hundreds of years after the exiles had returned. Writing as Baruch, the author addresses Jews in the Diaspora (those living outside the Jewish homeland) to give them hope and consolation. The author suggests a parallel between the Babylonian exiles and those living in the Diaspora. The Lectionary editors chose this reading because it echoes part of Isaiah’s preparation prophecy quoted in today’s gospel.
The second reading includes Paul’s greetings and prayers for the ekklesia in Philippi. He greets the Philippians as friends and “partners in the gospel,” and prays that their love may increase in “real knowledge and discernment” so as to be “pure and blameless” at Christ’s coming (parousia). The Lectionary editors chose this reading to emphasize preparing for Jesus’ coming, whether as a historical remembrance at Christmas or at his second coming.
Luke’s gospel reintroduces John the Baptizer, prophet and precursor. John warns the Jewish people to prepare for the messiah’s coming. Next week, we will hear John’s specific instructions; this week, we listen to his call to conversion or metanoia. Today’s gospel places the Baptizer in his historical and religious context.
- John’s identity. Luke has already introduced John the Baptizer as a prophet in Lk 1. Today’s reading describes the Baptizer’s prophetic call (“the word of God came to John”) using the words and symbols of Hebrew scripture. Luke extends Mark’s version of Isaiah’s quotation by adding “all flesh shall see God’s salvation.” This allows Luke to emphasize the universality of salvation, a theme he announced in Simeon’s prophecy (Lk 2:30-32). For Luke, the Baptizer is Jesus’ precursor (Lk 7:27), a transitional figure inaugurating the time of fulfillment of prophecy and promise.
- John’s message. John proclaims a conversion-baptism that frees participants from sin (Lk 3:3). All Jews practiced forms of ritual washing, such as before eating and before entering the Temple. John connects his one-time ritual immersion with the requirement of metanoia (change of heart/mind). That is, John’s ritual washing frees a person from sin only if that person changes: turns away (converts) from sin and does good. John’s baptism prepares people spiritually and morally to encounter the coming messiah’s message.
Last week’s readings looked forward to Jesus’ second coming. This week’s readings focus on Jesus’ first coming, in his incarnation. Baruch, Paul, and the gospel describe the believing community’s need to prepare for this coming. What are we changing in our hearts and minds to get ready? Are we surveying our personal valleys for spiritual or moral deficiencies? Are we leveling our interior mountains of pride or exclusion? Are we making our path to discipleship clearer and straighter?