The 1st Reading – Baruch 5: 1-9
This short, prophetic book was claimed to be from the hand of the famous secretary of Jeremiah, but theologians think it was more likely written later (between third and first century BC) as a work of encouragement to those Jews being forced to adopt Greek ways (Reading the Old Testament, Boadt, 502-503).
A mitre, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is a headdress worn by archbishops, bishops and abbots. It is also a joint between 2 pieces of wood to form a corner. A cornerstone, in particular, is a stone at the base that binds 2 walls. The cornerstone must be strong and secure for the integrity of the building. God is in your corner! Do you wear God like a mitre, to advance secure in God’s glory?
The Greek word for justice more closely means doing what is right. If we try to do what is right, we will display God’s glory and splendor. What does that mean to you? Think deeply about that question. Doing what we feel is right within us is what is right with God. This is what brings joy and mercy into the world. What wonderful thoughts to have this Advent!
The 2nd Reading — The Letter to the Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11
Paul had established this church in about 50AD (the first Christian church on European soil). It was one of Paul’s favorite churches. Paul was in prison (probably in Rome) when Epaphroditus, an old friend from Philippi, arrived bearing more gifts from this church. Unfortunately, Epaphroditus became very sick. Later, he recovered and Paul was anxious for him to return home so that those who are worried about him will be relieved. Paul sent this letter with him. Despite the hardship and imprisonment, Paul’s letter is full of thanksgiving and joy, a very personal letter filled with strong emotions. (Serendipity, p. 375)
This is a love letter. Paul’s love for the people of Philippi is bursting in his words, and he wants that love he has for them to have an effect. Love is powerful! It moves people. It changes us. It makes us want goodness. And since God is love, of course it makes sense that love transcends and transforms all that is. When has someone’s love transformed you? When has it opened your eyes to something? How does love make a difference?
The Gospel – Luke 3: 1-6
Have you ever celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation privately? Most people admit that they are nervous on arrival but relieved afterwards…like a weight has been lifted. There is a freedom in knowing that God comes to us where we are. God takes us “AS IS”. Sometimes you may see items on sale “AS IS” and that usually means they are damaged goods or less than adequate. God makes us ready for to be full price again! And God’s love is the same no matter what condition we are in. We are beloved, which is what John the Baptist proclaimed LOUDLY!
From Living Liturgy, 2004: Salvation – the fullness of life that our God wishes to offer us – is revealed – or shows forth – in our repentance. To repent means to change one’s mind – one’s life. Our work of repentance is about turning ourselves toward God who wishes to embrace us in mercy, forgiveness, and love. Sometimes, mountains of work, or paths of indecision, or valleys of doubt and fear keep us from the Lord’s embrace – the Way of the Lord. It is a reading that seems more like a civil engineer’s road plans. But it is only this God who can give sure direction to our lives. Let God re-engineer our lives. This Advent may we take the time to rest in the security of God’s nearness. (p.6). Then our ‘tense hearts’ can be eased opened to receive Jesus, the true Good News.
Luke takes great care to situate the ministry of John the Baptist and thus Jesus in
the midst of human history. He mentions both secular leaders (Tiberius, Pilate, Herod etc.) and religious authorities (Annas and Caiphas). It is sort of like a “chronological drumroll.” He also chooses to include all of Isaiah’s directives (Isaiah 40:3-5) leading to the universal cry of “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (God’s universal and pastoral care for all peoples is a major theme of Luke’s gospel and his Acts of the Apostles.) When we dare to try to put someone or some group outside of God’s saving concern, we should remember this theme. This Good News of Jesus Christ is intended to disrupt and disturb us until it enlarges our hearts, enlightens our minds, and unclenches our fists to welcome the truth of God’s love for all human flesh. (Celebration, Dec.10, 2000)
God breaks into human history through the birth of Jesus. By the incarnation of the Word, God enters human life, history, the world. But the Incarnation also makes it possible for us to enter the very life of God. Through the Incarnation, God became part of our eating and drinking, our sickness, our joy, our delight, our passion, our dying, our death. But all this is for the purpose of drawing us out of ourselves, away from our own self-preoccupation, self-absorbtion, self-fixation, so as to participate in the divine life (Altogether Gift, Michael Downey, p. 79).
Let us pray…
God of Justice,
Remove me from my comfort zones
so I can help the poor and vulnerable.
Open my eyes
to see the potential for change around me,
and give me the courage
to take the next step. AMEN
There is a shift in Jeremiah’s prophecy. For many years he had predicted pestilence, slaughter, famine and captivity. Now that Jerusalem is falling, he is here to instill hope: “I will bring upon them all the good I promise them,“ (32:42) and “Call to me, and I will answer you,” (33:3). And it is a LASTING hope, a complete transformation of Israel: “One heart and one way I will give them…I will make with them an eternal covenant,” (32:39-40). Note how the Lord says He will make the covenant WITH them, not at them. There is a partnership, with both sides giving. How does God partner with you?
By following God and being “in covenant” with God, we will remain connected to God and to each other. Our faithfulness is made evident by our choices, not only in what we avoid but also in what we choose to do. When am I most tempted to make my own rules and be “in covenant” elsewhere? How do the choices I make each day show my fidelity to God? (From 3 Minute Retreat by Loyola Press)
Baruch is a friend that is loyal and true to Jeremiah. He is there for him, even when it is hard. It seems that Baruch wrote much of what we find in these scripture passages, although there are hints that a man named Shaphan was connected with the scrolls too. Think of who your spiritual friends are…how do they help your faith?
Gedaliah is the son of this Shaphan, considered pro-Babylonian and “sell-outs” in order to receive power and prestige from the new Babylonian empire. He is assassinated. The government is falling apart as well as the city. Poor Jeremiah is amidst all of this turmoil, mostly in jail or a cistern. “Jeremiah was constantly exposed to the situation of God, and tirelessly attentive to the mood of the people, offering boldly the call, the challenge, and the warning, attempting to unravel the knots in the relationship between God and Israel,” (Heschel, A., The Prophets, p. 139).
Sin means, “missing the mark”. Jeremiah, using words from God, proclaims how the people of Israel and Judah have sinned which is why they are in this predicament. Even when we know we are sinning, we sometimes delay going to God and being reconciled. Think of St. Augustine before being baptized, saying “For there was nothing I could reply when you called me: Rise, thou that sleepest and arise from the dead: and Christ shall enlighten thee; wheras You showed me by every evidence that Your words were true, there was simply nothing I could answer save only laggard lazy words: ‘Soon,’ ‘Quite soon,’ ‘Give me just a little while,’ (Confessions, p. 165). These words from Jeremiah are meant to help us. Don’t delay! God wants to be in relationship (covenant, partnership) with us.
Spirit of Peace,
Stop the raging seas of violence
and hate that fill our lives
so I can witness your love
and compassion to a hurting world.
Bless me with the words
to proclaim your peace,
the strength to live out your justice
and the courage to take the next step. AMEN