December 2, 2009 // Uncategorized
Joy and peace will prevail
2nd Sunday of Advent
The Book of Baruch, the source of this Advent’s weekend first biblical reading, is relatively brief, only five chapters. It also is among the books called by Protestants scholars the Apocrypha, by Catholics the Deutero-Canonical. As such it does not appear in the King James version of the Bible and some other translations that rely upon the thinking that led to the selection of books for inclusion in the King James edition.
It is not found in Jewish translations of the Scriptures.
One reason for its omission from the King James and Jewish versions is that at one time it was presumed to have been written originally in Greek. (It was thought that Old Testament books could not be considered authentic revelation unless composed in Hebrew.) Actually, scholars now believe that Baruch first was written in Hebrew, but that only Greek translations survive.
For Catholics, however, most important is the fact that Christians from early times venerated Baruch as part of the Bible, and the church officially has recognized it as such.
Regardless, when Baruch was written, great problems beset God’s people. This book encouraged those who were suffering, reassuring them that God would not forsake them, and that God’s justice and mercy would prevail in the end.
The Epistle to the Philippians furnishes the next reading. Sent as a letter to the Christians of Philippi, an important city in the ancient Roman Empire, the epistle urges the Philippians loyal to the Lord to be steadfast in their faith, come what may, until the second coming of Jesus.
As often predicted elsewhere in the New Testament, this reading says that one day, but at a time unknown, Jesus will come again in triumph and judgment.
Luke’s last reading centers upon Jesus, although highly visible in the reading is John the Baptist. Carefully constructed, the Gospel presents the coming of Jesus as uniquely important in the course of human affairs.
The Lord’s coming was so important, in fact, that preceding this coming was the proclamation of God’s majesty, and of human responsibility before God, by John the Baptist.
John was a prophet and a holy man. Holiness gave persons special wisdom. God used such persons to reveal truth to other humans. Through John, God was revealing the person and mission of Christ.
Also, to emphasize the importance of the Lord’s coming, this Gospel takes pains in setting the presence of John, and the coming of Christ, at an exact moment in history, namely by stating that it all occurred when Tiberius was emperor, Pilate his governor in Palestine, and so on.
Finally, Jesus came as God’s promised redeemer. Jesus was, in God’s mercy, the fulfillment of these promises. The prophets of old had yearned for the redeemer and had predicted the coming of a savior. When this messiah would come, all would be made right. The rough ways for people would be made smooth. Now, as John the Baptist declared, the Redeemer at last had come.
When Baruch was written, times were bad for the Jews. When Philippians and the Gospel of Luke were written, times were hard for Christians.
On this Second Sunday of Advent, the church speaks to us. Times are hard. Even materially, things are far from good, with recession and war confronting us. Spiritually, sin still cripples us and dooms us to eternal death.
However, all will be right, joy and peace will prevail, if we admit Jesus into our lives. He will come to us, but we must invite the Lord into our lives sincerely, by reforming ourselves, by renouncing sin, and by giving ourselves totally to God. The call of John the Baptist is spoken to us.
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