The Gospel reading on Sunday, the second Sunday of Advent, speaks of reconciliation and wholeness. It speaks to a people, and to all people, alienated from God, the land, themselves. It is a Laudato Si’ in miniature. It is a timely reminder of the Year of Mercy, which begins on Tuesday next, 8th December.
In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrach of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:
‘A voice cries in the wilderness:
Prepare a way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled in,
every mountain and hill be laid low,
winding ways will be straightened
and rough roads made smooth.
And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.’
It is tempting to rewrite the opening of that reading so as to highlight for our age the political and moral turmoil of the space in which God’s Gospel is now to be preached and made incarnate. But maybe that would be to over-localise our contemporary reading of the passage. And for those of us who live in the UK risk suggesting that THE place for the preaching of peace and reconciliation is the Holy Land and the Middle East.
Today, of course, there is challenge for us to know about how empires and regimes impact on the Holy Land and its neighbours: but there is challenge for us also to know how evil and its consorts impact on our own local situation too. And that is work not so easy to do, and it is work for us to do for ourselves.
Where is there alienation now, close to home? In personal and familial and eccelesial relationships, in the structures of society, in the to and fro of politics? How can we represent the Gospel to those situations?
- Where do I first see need for healing and hope?
- How might I play my part there?
Isaiah. F.J. Shields. Wolverhampton Art Gallery. (c) 2015, Allen Morris