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-translation
After providing a litany of very important people in today’s gospel, Luke notes that the “word of the Lord” comes to John in the desert. And who is John, really, compared to all these prominent people? The son of a priest of the Temple who’s gone feral. It seems outrageous that this insignificant person in a place as insignificant as the desert should play a preparatory role in our redemption. Outrageous and consoling. In what way consoling? Well, the same “word of the Lord” might be coming to nobodies like you and me in the middle of the “nowheresvilles” of our lives.
The French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wrote that “To know God means to know what has to be done.” Like John, when the word of God comes to us, we know what needs to be done: Preach it!
—Fr. Martin Connell, S.J. is Professor of Education at John Carroll University, University Heights, OH, and Rector of the John Carroll University Jesuit community.
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry,
Announces that the Lord is nigh:
Awake and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings.
Then cleansed be every heart from sin;
Make straight the way of God within,
And let each heart prepare a home,
Where such a mighty guest might come.
—A traditional Advent hymn, in Ritual Song,, © 1996, GIA Publications, Inc.