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.”
In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, St. Luke carefully situates the story in history. It is the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. We also recognize Pontius Pilate, Herod and Philip. These were ruthless characters who took no mercy on the people of Israel. There seemed to be little hope for the Israelites with these brutal rulers of the time.
Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests of the time. You would think that the word of God would come through the high priests of the temple. And yet we hear today that the word of God came to John, the humble son of Zechariah.
What was John’s message? He called for a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John was called to prepare the way of the Lord who was about to act in history. And He would act in a big way and very surprising way.
This Gospel connects closely with the first reading from the prophet Baruch. Baruch and Jeremiah lived during one of the worst times in Israel’s history. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took the Israelites into exile. It seemed like an impossible situation and yet Baruch told the people to stop their mourning and prepare to rejoice. God was about to act and bring the people back home. And God did act in a big way.
What does all of this have to do with us today? We are in a difficult point in history. ISIS continues to wreak havoc around the world. There is violence, famine and a lack of respect for human life. We have some options with our response. We can give up hope. We can think that God does not listen to our cries. Or we can prepare ourselves and get ready for God to act in a big way.
God has acted powerfully throughout human history. He acted after the Babylonian exile. He acted in a manger in Bethlehem. He acted on a cross outside of Jerusalem. He acted in Mexico through Our Lady of Guadalupe. He acted through Pope John Paul II to bring down communism. He is bringing His Church through a difficult abuse scandal.
And He will continue to act powerfully today and every day. But He needs us – me and you – to be a part of this mission. He needs us to get ready this Advent and each day by turning away from our sins and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. God will act – and He may act through me and you.
Have you lost hope that God will act today?
Are you preparing yourself for the mission of God today?
What role can you play in salvation history?
God is going to act again – in a big way. Get ready!