Lectio Divina for 2nd Sunday of Advent - December 5, 2021

Lectio Divina for 2nd Sunday of Advent - December 5, 2021

By David Kilby

READ
Lk 3:1-6

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of 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:

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

MEDITATE

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar … 

Luke specifies the temporal significance of an eternal affair. He is not concerned about the powers he mentions--Caesar and Pontius Pilate and the others--but he knows his reader will want to know. Luke’s goal is to describe the heavenly, but at the time earthly powers overshadowed the spiritual realm. Not much has changed today. The evangelist here is announcing the greatest prophet, John the Baptist, the one who announced the coming of the Son of God right before Christ came. Yet still, he needs to give the secular context. As soon as he does his due diligence in that area though, Luke sets the celestial stage--quoting the prophet Isaiah. 

The earthly powers and those who look to them for guidance see the world through different eyes than those who keep their eyes on heaven. Luke does the proper evangelistic thing by catching the attention of people who care about the reign of worldly leaders. For a moment, he walks by their side. But then, Luke points to the heavenly realm, to John the Baptist who makes straight the way of the Lord with less concern for the red carpets rolled out for caesars. 

the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert

The word of God did not come to John in a place of comfort. It didn’t come to him while he was sitting on the couch. John was already actively pursuing the Lord. He already felt God’s calling, and did something about it. He went into the desert. His zeal for the Lord compelled him to act. Sometimes I expect God to just barge in and reach me. I say if he really is God, he would know what is best for me and intrude. Love is intrusive, I say. Because it wills what is best for the beloved, it invades the beloved’s comfort zone to make sure he does what is right. But that is not the way God loves us. He waits for us to turn to him. Some may say, “What about Samuel and Mary? When God spoke to Samuel, the young prophet didn’t even know it was God at first. And when the Angel Gabriel came to Mary, she wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” The devotion to God that Samuel and Mary practiced before their encounters with the Lord is often overlooked. Samuel was an obedient disciple of Eli. Mary was a virgin of the Temple. They were living lives devoted to God, which made them conducive to God’s message. John the Baptist, likewise, had been consecrated from birth. His father said of him:

“You, My child shall be called
The prophet of the Most High,
For you will go before the Lord to prepare His way,
To give his people knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins.”

A strong relationship with God doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes years to learn how to hear God’s voice. This is not due to any kind of cryptic language that God speaks. It’s because the voices of the world, the flesh, and the devil do everything in their power to drown out God’s voice. We often need to go to our own desert to truly hear the word of God. 

 proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

Even before Jesus starts preaching, John makes sure  people know that the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins are paramount to the Gospel. When Jesus starts his ministry, he affirms the same, preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Two choices lie before us, a life of sin or life in Christ. In order to live in Christ we have to leave behind a life of sin. John and Jesus are just laying out the obvious prerequisite for living a holy life. The world was full of sin, and still is. John and Jesus’ message couldn’t be clearer. The Gospel message will not take hold in someone’s life if they hold onto sin. We cannot serve two masters. We cannot be lukewarm. God is offering us divine life through baptism. If only we could always see the glory, freedom and joy that awaits us for choosing Christ over sin. The call to repentance may seem like a grim message, but it’s a small price to pay to inherit eternal life. 

“make straight his paths … The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth”

Perhaps this is where part of the expression, “The straight and narrow” comes from. That is the Christian way, they say. Yet, that has not been my experience. The Christian road for me is often winding as it meanders through rough terrain. When I think the Lord is calling me to take a straight shot to some goal in life, when I try to execute the plan, real life gets in the way and I end up going around obstacles rather than plowing straight through them. “The Lord writes straight with crooked lines” seems to be the more accurate saying. But what are we to say of this verse from Isaiah quoted by Luke? On our life journey, does God want us to take obstacles head on instead of going around them? Perhaps. Maybe he wants us to build bridges and tunnels instead of winding our way through the valleys, where we often get lost and stuck anyway. 

As a map buff, I like to measure the distance between two places “as the crow flies”. That would be the “straight path”. But the terrain of the real world makes it nearly impossible. Is Isaiah being idealistic in saying we should make straight the path of the Lord? Is that even doable in real life?

With humans it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. All valleys are passable. The Lord makes a way where there is no way. If we think we can’t be resolute in living the Christian life no matter what obstacles come across our path, we are thinking the way the world does. The way of the world sees lack of money, public opinion, time, distance, what’s been done before, what’s never been done, and many other things as obstacles. John is saying that when our eyes are fixed upon the Lord, we start to see things the way heaven does and all these miniscule impediments become like pebbles on our path. The saints didn’t let anything get in the way of doing God’s will. With their eyes fixed on heaven, they knew what they had to do. Miracles happened as a result.  

PRAY

Lord,

You are the Way. No one comes to the Father except through you. Help us to not complicate things, to not come up with excuses for leaving the Way. We leave the path and lose our way so often. Help us to find it again when we do, and to trust that you will prepare the way for us as John prepared the way for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

LISTEN

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, many voices try to tempt Christian, the main character, to leave the path to the Celestial City. He has to remain resolute in his desire to listen only to the true guide, Evangelist. In a similar way, we as Christians strive to stay on the Way and listen to the word of God, as John the Baptist did. While the Way may seem to be anything but straight, even when we are doing the Lord’s will the best we know how, God’s voice and his law never waver. It is always the same. So when we are tempted to waver to the left or to the right, we should turn to the Lord and listen to him closely. Then he will direct the way.

 

 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.

 

 

Glory to the Father The Son and The Holy Spirit