In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
He went into all the region around 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, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
In most major US cities, negotiating public transportation and highway gridlock provides daily stress and annoyance. Perhaps there is a connection between this challenge and the confusion of the people of Israel who longed for, hoped for, prayed for the coming of the Messiah. Into this confusing messiness of life comes the figure of John the Baptist. John offers a sense of direction; he explains how to straighten out our lives; he offers the challenge of faith as he points us to the coming Messiah.
In a way similar to today’s reading from St. Paul, John reminds us that the gifts of life and faith which the Messiah offers are already present in our hearts, even if hidden in a dark closet somewhere deep down inside. Could it actually be that our whole life is in truth an “advent,” a time in which the Lord is coming to birth? Could it be that God comes year by year, day by day to fulfill His promise to love us steadfastly and unconditionally. Could it be that Jesus calls forth a similar response of love and service in our own lives—no matter how crooked the road our life story has taken, no matter how stiff the challenges and choices we face?
Perhaps it is a question of letting just a small ray of light into some dark corner of our hearts we may be afraid to illuminate. Maybe it is some bit of self-centeredness we need to straighten out and hand over to our God. Perhaps it is the need to be true to the God-given time and talents, the commitments of faith and opportunities for making a difference that lay before us today and tomorrow.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Based on the words St. Paul offers today, we pray the following:
Lord, may our love more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience. We pray that with a clear conscience and blameless conduct, we may learn to value the things that really matter. May we be found rich in the harvest of justice which Jesus Christ is ripening within us to the glory and praise of God!
—The Jesuit Prayer Team