Second Sunday of Advent (Luke 3:1-6)
It is clear from today’s gospel that the message of God always comes to us in the real world in which we live, not in some spiritual reality far removed from the messiness of human living. So God’s word comes to John the Baptist with the backdrop of the political and religious world of the time, with all the connotations of anguish which Roman dominance, Herodian pettiness and high-priestly conniving implied. John, however, can speak to that world because he had the prophetic ability to stand apart and judge what is really going on.
So John uses the words of the prophet Isaiah to speak of his own position as a “voice crying in the wilderness” calling on people to “prepare a way for the Lord.” The imagery comes from the world with which John was familiar: the huge flurry and expense involved when an emperor came to visit his territory, “every valley would be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low…” so that the emperor would have a smooth ride. John’s sees himself as preparing the way for the coming Messiah, not physically, but by his preaching of repentance, so that people will turn aside from their evildoing and be enabled to “see the salvation of God” when he comes.
What prophets today are calling us to repentance? Maybe we need to heed the ecological prophets of our time, who are asking us to wake up before it is too late for the world to have its “paths made straight.” Let us hope that countries and Governments will heed the outcome of the UN Climate Conference in Paris. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ calls us to action at local and international level.
Céline Mangan, O.P.