Reflection on the Gospel-2nd Sunday of Advent Year C
Veronica M. Lawson RSM

(Luke 3:1-6)

For the third time within the space of three chapters, Luke situates his gospel drama on a national and international stage and in relation to global events. The gospel writer 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. As at the beginning of the previous chapter, Luke is strong on dramatic impact and less concerned about the facts. He situates events in the 'pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas', for instance, seeming to imply 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 on the world stage of the prophetic messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the one who, unlike the great rulers of the world, 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 conversion for the forgiveness of sins'.

We might listen to the Isaiah citation on the lips of John against the backdrop of the first reading from Baruch 5 with its inter-textual echoes of Isaiah 40. The Isaiah passage originally referred to the return of the Jerusalemites from exile in Babylon (present day Iraq). The prophet Baruch reiterates, expands, and then reinterprets the poetry of Isaiah, offering a practical dimension to return or conversion. 'Return' or conversion is God's work. It involves putting on the 'cloak of integrity' and allowing God to provide 'an escort' of mercy and integrity, literally of works of mercy (eleēmosunē) and justice (dikaiosunē). Not a bad focus for Advent!