The preaching of John the Baptist
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit Avila (The Freeman) - December 9, 2018 - 2:07am

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.”

***

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 vsbobita@gmail.com. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com

JOHN THE BAPTIST
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