The preach­ing of John the Bap­tist

The Freeman - - OPINION -

It is now the Sec­ond Sun­day of Ad­vent and in two weeks’ time, it will be Christmas time al­ready. To­day’s gospel read­ing comes from the Evan­ge­list Luke 3:1-6

“3 Now in the fif­teenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cae­sar, Pon­tius Pi­late be­ing gov­er­nor of Ju­daea, and Herod be­ing tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Itu­raea and of the re­gion of Tra­choni­tis, and Lysa­nias the tetrarch of Abi­lene, 2 An­nas and Ca­iaphas be­ing the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilder­ness.

“3 And he came into all the coun­try about Jor­dan, preach­ing the bap­tism of re­pen­tance for the re­mis­sion of sins;

“4 As it is writ­ten in the book of the words of Esa­ias the prophet, say­ing, The voice of one cry­ing in the wilder­ness, Pre­pare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Ev­ery val­ley shall be filled, and ev­ery moun­tain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.”

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The Evan­ge­list Luke was a very pre­cise per­son. When he wrote his gospel, he prac­ti­cally put all the main char­ac­ters into their role in Pales­tine at the time of the oc­cu­pa­tion of the Ro­man Em­pire. He even iden­ti­fied the high priests of that time so the read­ers can re­ally say that our Lord Je­sus Christ was truly a his­tor­i­cal fig­ure and lived at the time of the 15th Year of the reign of Tiberius Ceasar.

“4 As it is writ­ten in the book of the words of Esa­ias the prophet, say­ing, The voice of one cry­ing in the wilder­ness, Pre­pare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Ev­ery val­ley shall be filled, and ev­ery moun­tain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.”

No doubt Luke was talk­ing about John the Bap­tizer whose role in life was to be the pre­cur­sor or the mes­siah and it was his job to pre­pare ev­ery­thing that the mes­siah needed.

For those of us who have vis­ited the Holy Land, one of the most dra­matic vis­its is the visit to the charm­ing vil­lage of Ein Karem si­t­u­ated on the western slopes of Jerusalem. It is a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for both pil­grims and lo­cals alike, with its churches and monas­ter­ies, ro­man­tic cafés and restau­rants, and green hills per­fect for hik­ing.

The site is known as far back as the time of the prophet Jeremiah, who ex­horted the chil­dren of the tribe of Ben­jamin to “set up a sig­nal-fire in Beit ha-Kerem” as for­eign in­vaders were ap­proach­ing Jerusalem (Jeremiah 6:1). Yet for Chris­tian pil­grims, Ein Karem has spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance as the home­town of Zechariah and El­iz­a­beth, the par­ents of John the Bap­tist, and the place of the Visi­ta­tion, where Mary the mother of Je­sus vis­ited her cousin El­iz­a­beth be­fore John’s birth.

If you re­mem­ber read­ing the New Tes­ta­ment the An­gel Gabriel re­vealed to Mary that her cousin El­iz­a­beth who was al­ready age­ing was preg­nant six months. After that she went to Ein Karem. While the Bi­ble didn’t say how far this place was, I’m sure that Mary must have taken a few days to reach a des­ti­na­tion so far away.

In the New Tes­ta­ment we learned of the greet­ing El­iz­a­beth gave to Mary. This is why the Church’s most beloved hymns in Ein Karem is, Mary’s Mag­ni­fi­cat (Luke 1:46-55), which she prayed when she met El­iz­a­beth, now writ­ten in no less than 47 lan­guages on the wall fac­ing the church. It is re­ally one of the most beau­ti­ful places to visit in the Holy land.

But we know that John the Bap­tist was later found in the wilder­ness wear­ing camel’s hair and eat­ing lo­custs. We can only at­tribute this to Zechariah and El­iz­a­beth’s try­ing to escape the sol­diers of King Herod who must have come to slay the young John the Bap­tist in his search of the new king of Is­rael. The Sec­ond Sun­day of Ad­vent ex­horts us to pre­pare our­selves for the com­ing of the mes­siah, our Lord Je­sus Christ, and we thank God for grant­ing us his prom­ise of re­newal to bring us back to Par­adise.

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For email re­sponses to this ar­ti­cle, write to vs­bo­[email protected] gmail.com. His col­umns can be ac­cessed through www. philstar.com

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