First reading: Bar. 5:1–9
Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.
Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.
Second reading: Phil. 1:4–6, 8–11
Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Gospel: Lk. 3:1–6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
In other words Fr. Xene Sanchez, SVD (Kinshasa-Limete, Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Years back, there were two dreaded roads in Cebu where fatal accidents happened, causing the tragic deaths of many, young and old, including children. In the North was the road named “Eme” because it was in the form of the letter “m” following the curves of the high mountain. In the South was one called “Manipis” because, as the word suggests in the vernacular, it was narrow. I was informed that presently both roads had been improved. Many people are traveling there enjoying the trip instead of passing through in anguish and fear. The government had to spend billions of pesos for road reconstruction.
Each of us is asked to prepare the way of the Lord. Are we ready to pay the price to welcome our Savior?
Notice that the Gospel started by enumerating the highly prominent people at that time. No less than the emperor of the great Roman Empire was first on the list followed by the governor of Judea, then the three rulers of the Herodian tetrarchy, and lastly, the two High Priests. These giant political and religious leaders, usually occupying the first places, receded to the background, and the limelight was focused on the Precursor of the Lord, John the Baptist. Why? He did not even have conventional clothes. He did not grow in the capital but in the desert. The reason is: “The WORD OF GOD came to John.”
He was the “voice crying in the wilderness,” fulfilling the prophecy of Second-Isaiah announced 550 years before when Jerusalem fell, and the people were driven out of the city and became captives of Babylon. The people were punished because they had deviated from the way of the Lord. They did not listen to his voice. The voice in the desert was like talking to an empty place. But like Second-Isaiah, the prophet Baruch consoled Jerusalem telling her that mourning and misery were over. God would give her new names—which we should take note—“Peace-through-Justice” and “Glory-through-Devotion.” The way of the Lord is characterized by Justice, the precondition of Peace, and Fidelity (devotion) to God, the prerequisite of her real Glory.
From the desert, John the Baptist went to the populated regions announcing the salvation of all, without exception, including you and me. But everybody must first of all repent, die to the old self, “drowning” it through baptism and receive forgiveness. We are therefore invited to change our lives of mourning and misery to a new life of rejoicing. But there is a high price: we have to abandon crooked ways, flatten mountains of obstacles we built ourselves, and fill up the abysses that we created that have separated us from others, even from those closest to us.