A reading from the prophecy of Baruch
How can you find hope amid desolation, exile from all that you have loved, and the never-ending feeling that you have been abandoned by the very God who you believed would save you? That was the situation for the Israelites as they suffered for what seemed like forever in exile in Babylon in the seventh century before the birth of Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine how awful life for the people was during that time, but here the prophet Baruch, a scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, offers a message of hope for a despairing people.
Has there ever been a time when you have felt abandoned by God, in exile from ones you loved, and perhaps also from your better self? The same message of hope that God sent to the Israelites he gives to us, not from afar but from the very Spirit who lives within each of us.
May we open our minds and hearts to the healing word of the Spirit for God. It might not come right away and it might come as a surprise from an unlikely source. But have faith that it will come.
“The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” What are the great things that God has done for you that have given you joy? Please take some time during Advent to reflect on these gifts and how they have changed your life.
A reading from St. Paul's letter to the Philippians
(Chapter 1:4-6, 8-11)
Paul writes this letter from prison. He has no idea if he will ever again see the Christians in Philippi. This is, in effect, a love letter. Paul pours out his heart to the people that he loves so dearly. He tells them that Jesus will continue the “good work in you” and “will continue to complete it.” He writes, “I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” and he prays that their “love may increase ever more and more.”
These are the words of a man who knows he may be put to death and who wants desperately to communicate to the people he loves his deep affection and loyalty and his confidence that Christ will continue to be present to them.
It is a beautiful thing to write or say the love we have in our hearts before the opportunity slips away.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke
Luke sets the stage for the coming of the “word of God” by listing several political and religious leaders of the time. But the word does not come to any of them but rather to a man who lives and preaches in the wilderness—John the Baptist. John, frequently characterized as the last of the prophets of Israel, preaches a call to a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Luke quotes the prophet Isaiah, referring to John as “a voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’” This is one more chance for Israel to hear and respond to a prophet. Of course, both John and Jesus were killed by leaders of the time. Those leaders and others rejected Jesus’ invitation to be a part of the kingdom of God. Now, Advent is a time for us to again hear and answer that invitation.
Photo, statue of St. Paul in St. Peter's Square, by Nils Huber on Unsplash.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.