First Reading: Bar. 5:1-9 Alternate: Mal. 3:1-4 • Canticle 4 or 16 • Phil. 1:3-11 • Luke 3:1-6
Turn on the news and you will hear about storms and tears. History is a panoramic view of suffering, sorrow, and cruelty. “A kingdom was set up in the presence of Antiochus. He invaded Egypt with a grave multitude, with chariots and elephants, and cavalry and with a multitude of ships. They captured the fortified cities and carried away Egyptian spoils. Antiochus returned, after he struck the Egyptians, and he went up against Israel and he entered Jerusalem with a grave multitude and he entered the sanctuary beaming with pride” (1 Macc. 1:16-21). There is a river of blood that flows in the city of God. Will it ever end? As long as the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve walk the earth, we will hear such stories, and may even be drawn into them. Peace is not a final accomplishment, but rather the work of constant peacemakers (Gaudium et Spes, n. 78).
Let me show you a more excellent way. There was a wild and furry man hiking the shore of mythic Jordan. He saw those waters as a way of passing over from bondage to freedom. He felt its coolness as a call to be clean. The arid air and dust, the water and solitude, and the impetus of the Spirit gave him voice, and he cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Luke 3:3). With those words he called a crowd and built an army. “And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him” (Mark 1:5). Among the multitude coming to John there was one like a son of man, utterly like us but more than us. He was and is and ever shall be “the Lord who fills the temple” (Mal. 3:1). “He is like a refiner’s fire and like a fuller’s soap” (3:2). Though he himself had no need of cleansing, he went down by the riverside to get his dipping. Wet with water he displayed who he is: utter newness, life itself. His name was Jesus and God with us and God help us.
The army of John became the army of Jesus and began to invade the whole inhabited world. As they spread out from land to land, however, they felt as though they were always in the center of things. They were God’s temple, signs of a New Jerusalem. This made them happy. It even made them beautiful. “Put on forever the beauty of the glory of the Lord. Put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting; for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven” (Baruch 5:1-3). Behold, the lost are found, coming from east and west, walking with ease on level ground, radiant with glory, smelling the fragrant trees. They sing “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” for they are caught in glory and clothed in Christ. This is the army of the Prince of Peace.
Coming to Christ, they come to each other in a new and living way. They come in love: “For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ, you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:8-11).
Look It Up
Read Canticle 4.
Think About It
There is a certain light before the rising of the sun, the dayspring of resurrection.