Luke is interested in specifying the exact names of the people who control at that time the different spheres of political and religious power. They are the ones who plan and direct everything. Yet the decisive event of Jesus Christ is being prepared and taking place outside their sphere of influence and power, without their knowing or deciding anything.
That is how everything essential in the world and in our lives always appears. That is how God’s grace and salvation penetrates into human history. What is essential is not in the hands of the powerful. Luke says plainly that the word of God came to John in the desert, not in imperial Rome or in the holy place of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Nowhere else can one hear better God’s call to change the world than in the desert. The desert is the territory of the truth. It is the place where one lives by what is essential. There is no room for the superfluous. We cannot spend our lives amassing unnecessary things. Neither luxury nor ostentation is possible. What is decisive is seeking the sure path that leads to life.
That is why some prophets yearned so much for the desert, the symbol of a simpler life that is rooted in what is essential, a life unmarred by so much unfaithfulness to God and so much injustice with the people. In this desert setting of the desert, the Baptist announces the grand symbol of Baptism, from where start conversion, purification, forgiveness and the beginning of new life.
How are we to respond to this call today? The Baptist sums it up in an image taken from Isaiah: Prepare the way of the Lord. Our lives are strewn with obstacles and resistances that impede or make difficult God’s coming to our hearts and to our communities, to our Church and to our world. God is always near. We are the ones who need to open up paths in order to welcome the God made flesh in Jesus.
The images from Isaiah invite us to very elemental and fundamental commitments: to take care of what is essential without being distracted by what is secondary; to straighten up what we have kept deforming all around us; to make straight winding roads; to face the real truth about our lives in order to recover a willingness to change. We have to look after the baptisms of our children, but what all of us need is a baptism of repentance.
December 6, 2015
2 Advent (C)
Luke 3, 1-6