This Sunday invites us to reflect on the life of John the Baptist, his ministry and relationship with Jesus. He appeared in the desert of Judaea to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. He did this through his preaching of repentance that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. The Baptism in the river Jordan was a Jewish ritual – people were totally immersed in water to symbolize cleansing their physical lives into spiritual lives to get salvation.
The three Synoptic Gospels—Mark, Matthew, and Luke have attested to the importance of the baptism of John in preparing for Jesus. Only the Gospel of Luke, however, extends the connection between these two men to their birth. The first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel contain the Infancy Narrative, which tells about the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. These stories set the stage for the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in chapter three. St. Luke also identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel reading, as elsewhere, John the Baptist is presented as the figure who bridges the time before Christ and prepares the way for Christ’s own ministry.
In today’s Gospel, St. Luke shows that salvation is for all people and situated in world events. Therefore, Luke lists the political and religious leaders at the time of John’s appearance in the desert. Salvation is understood as God breaking into this political and social history. John’s preaching of the coming of the Lord is a key theme of the Advent season. As John’s message prepared the way for Jesus, we too are called to prepare ourselves for Jesus ‘coming. We respond to John’s message by repentance and reform of our lives. We are also called to be prophets of Christ, who announce by our lives the coming of the Messiah, as John did.
Fr. Dominic Ishaq JCD