05 Dec


(A biblical refection on the SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT [Year C] – 6 December 2015) 


Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6 

First Reading: Baruch 5:1-9; Psalms: Psalm 126:1-6; Second Reading: Philippians 1:4-6,8-11 

The Scripture Text

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness; and he went into all region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. 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; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:1-6 RSV)

The strange names in today’s Gospel are confusing, but they are very important because they help us identify the historical period during which Jesus lived and preached. Therefore, these names require a closer examination.

The reading begins with Luke telling us that Herod, Philip, and Lysanias were tetrarchs at the time when John the Baptist began preaching and that Pilate was procurator of Judea. “Tetrach” is a Greek word that means “a ruler of one-fourth”; it refers to one of the four sections into which the Romans divided their provinces. “Procurator” is another word the Romans used for “governor.”

When Herod the Great (the king of the Jews when Jesus was born) died in 4 B.C., the Romans divided his kingdom among three of his sons: Antipas, Archelaus, and Philip. Herod Antipas, the Herod Luke refers to in today’s Gospel, ruled Galilee (where Jesus lived and spent most of His time preaching) until 39 A.D. Herod Philip ruled his part of the kingdom until 33 A.D. and Herod Archelaus reigned in his own territory until the Romans removed him from power in 25 A.D. and replaced him with a Roman governor named Pontius Pilate. Since Luke tells us Philip was still ruling and Pilate was already in power when John’s ministry began, the events in today’s Gospel must have taken place between 25 and 33 A.D.

Luke helps narrow the date even further when he says John the Baptist began preaching during the fifteenth year of the rein of Tiberius. Since we know Tiberius Caesar became the sole emperor of Rome in 14 A.D., John’s ministry beginning shortly thereafter.

Today’s Gospel ends with Luke shifting his focus to John the Baptist, quoting John as telling the people to clear the way for the Lord. Kings in those days sent their messengers ahead of them before they visited a city or town. The messengers were responsible for helping the people prepare for the coming of the king. That’s John’s message to us today. He reminds us to get our hearts ready because our King, Jesus Christ, is on His way.

You spend time preparing for important events in your life (job interviews, parties, dates, etc.). How much time do you spend getting ready for Jesus? Isn’t He more important? 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I know You are the Lord of all history, and I give You my entire life. Make me a part of Your plan. Amen.

Jakarta, 3 December 2015 [Feast of St. Francis Xavier] 

A Christian Pilgrim


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