Reflection on the Gospel
2nd Sunday of Advent Year C
Luke 3:1-6 Sr Veronica Lawson RSM

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope
Francis has called us to look into our hearts and to bring the compassion and
mercy of God to our troubled planetary home. Care of our common home and of all
that inhabits our planet is both a gospel imperative and an urgent call to the
whole human community. Our courageous pope gives extraordinary leadership in
this respect.

 Like Luke, author of the third gospel, Pope
Francis recognises that the message is for the whole world and not simply for
the Church community. Luke situates his gospel drama on a national and international
stage and in relation to global events. He wants to insist that religion is no
private affair and that the story of the movement around Jesus of Nazareth is
no ordinary, everyday story. It is, rather, a story with momentous political
and religious significance. His references to Herod Antipas and to Pilate
foreshadow the imminent fate of John and the eventual fate of Jesus. Luke is
strong on dramatic impact and less concerned about the facts. He situates
events in the “pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas”, implying that there were two
high priests at the same time. In fact, Caiaphas succeeded his father-in-law
Annas as high priest, even if the influence of the latter persisted into
Caiaphas’ pontificate.

Luke presents John the son of Zechariah
as a prophet in the long line of prophets that culminates in the appearance of
Jesus of Nazareth on the global stage. Jesus is the one who truly brings the
salvation of our God. It is worth noting that prophecy in Luke is not reserved
to the male characters. With the shift from private to public space in Luke 3,
however, women prophets who featured prominently in the earlier chapters
(Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna) now disappear from the narrative.

Luke 3:1-6 contains some of Luke’s
favourite themes: prophecy and its fulfilment; the word of God; reversal of
expectations; conversion or repentance; proclaiming the good news; forgiveness
of sins; salvation. As in Israel’s past, the wilderness or desert is the locus
of God’s revelation. The prophet John calls on the people of the region around
the Jordan River to turn their hearts and their lives around, to accept “a
baptism of metanoia/conversion for
the forgiveness of sins’.

We listen to the Isaiah citation that
follows (“Prepare the way…”) against the backdrop of the first reading from the
prophet Baruch.
While we might critique the
violent metaphorical language that speaks of God’s salvation in terms of
filling the valleys and levelling the hills, we yearn for a time when “all
flesh”, human and other-than-human, will see the salvation of God.
God’s way involves putting on the “cloak
of integrity” or the “robe of righteousness” and allowing God to provide an
escort of mercy and right relationship
. If we
take seriously the call to live the gospel, we shall surely search for ways to
heal the broken relationships within our ailing planet.

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