2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C

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DR. BRANT PITRE

Mass Readings Explained

This was a time of evil leaders, of corrupt governors… and priests…

Into that corruption and into that scene comes John the Baptist… and he begins preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Now there are lots of things we could say about John… I just want to highlight one element: the geography of John’s ministry. Why does John go out into the wilderness? Why does he go into the River Jordan to preach this baptism of repentance? Why not go to Jerusalem? I mean if you want to get crowds of people, if you want to get attention, if you want to call more people to repentance, don’t you go to the city?

SOURCE: Mass Readings Explained by Dr. Brant Pitre.

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NOTE-CARDS

Featured Commentaries

Africa Bible Commentary

Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (Dr. Scott Hahn)

Life Recovery Bible

New College Bible Commentary
Navarre Bible, et alia

Catholic Commentary on Sunday Readings (PDF)

SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese. Sources include The Jerome Biblical Commentary, The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, and The Navarre Bible, and others.

The Sunday Website

DENNNIS HAMM, SJ

The Incarnation, Still Dawning upon Us

Let me express a conviction straight out: Advent is about the incarnation.


JOHN FOLEY, SJ

Prepare the Way

What does it mean to have failure and disillusion as your daily bread?


DR. ELEANOR STUMP

The End of the Story

What is the point of anything we strive for in our lives? When all is said and done, none of us is getting out of this world alive.

SOURCE: The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University: This website is a service of the Catholic Studies Centre at Saint Louis University, Matthew Baugh, SJ, Director; John Foley, SJ, Editor; Eleonore Stump, Coordinator; JC McCollum, Webmaster
RICHARD Niell Donavan

The Readings in Context

FIRST READING

Not Available

SECOND READING

Philippi was a city in Macedonia (northern Greece). While the apostle Paul was in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) on his Second Missionary Journey in 49-50 A.D., he had a vision of a man pleading, “Come over into Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). Convinced that this was a God-given vision, Paul and his companions set sail for Macedonia and settled in Philippi, where they started a church, beginning with the conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15).

While in Philippi, Paul and Silas met a slave-girl whose ability to tell fortunes brought her owners a good income. Paul cast out the spirit that made it possible for her to tell fortunes. The girl’s owners responded by bringing charges against Paul and Silas. They didn’t charge them with ruining their fortune teller, but instead charged them with creating a disturbance and setting “customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans” (Acts 16:21).

The authorities arrested Paul and Silas, beat and imprisoned them. However, that night an earthquake opened the prison doors and unfastened the prisoners’ chains. The jailer, assuming that the prisoners had escaped, was prepared to commit suicide rather than facing charges. However, Paul shouted, reassuring him that all the prisoners were present and accounted for. Paul then converted the jailer and his family to believe in Christ (Acts 16:25-34). The next morning, Paul revealed his Roman citizenship and charged the magistrates with unlawfully beating a Roman citizen who had not yet been found guilty of any charges. After receiving the magistrates’ apologies, they left the prison, visited Lydia’s home, and left Philippi to go to Thessalonica, a Greek city southwest of Philippi.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul mentions that he is in prison as he writes this letter (1:7, 13-14, 17). We don’t know which imprisonment this was. Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for two years (c. 58-60 A.D.—Acts 23:23ff.)—and in Rome for another two years (c. 60-62 A.D.—Acts 28:11ff.). On another occasion, he faced a death sentence in Asia, probably in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:9; Acts 19:23ff.). While we think that Paul sent this letter from Rome, we can’t be sure of that.

Paul acknowledges with gratitude that the Philippian church sent Epaphroditus bearing gifts for Paul in his imprisonment (2:25; 4:18). Paul informs them that Epaphroditus became seriously ill during his visit with Paul. After Epaphroditus recovered, Paul sent him back to Philippi with this letter. He also spoke of the possibility of sending Timothy to Philippi at some point in the future (2:19).

Verses 1-2 of chapter 1 constitute a salutation from “Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ; To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and servants: Grace to you, and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

GOSPEL

Luke, the historian, sets the ministry of John the Baptist in historical context. In similar fashion, he said, “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias” (1:5)—and he also referenced the time of Jesus’ birth by mentioning Augustus and Quirinius (2:1-2).

Because verse 1 sounds like a beginning, some have suggested that chapter 3 is the original beginning of this Gospel, but there is no convincing evidence for that. Instead, chapters 1-2 give us infancy and boyhood accounts, while chapter 3 begins the ministry of John—including the baptism of Jesus.

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

Dr. Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA

And all humankind shall see the salvation of God

FIRST READING

God will lead Israel with joy

This joy-filled poetic passage establishes the tone for Advent, a season of conversion characterised by joy in believing.

SOURCE: Hearers of the Word by Augustinian friar and biblical scholar Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA.

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SECOND READING

The one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus

Although this is not yet Gaudete Sunday, the readings already strike a note of joy. Philippians 1 takes up the joyful tone of the first reading, bringing it into our Christian perspective. The full thanksgiving is given above because Paul goes on to give concrete reasons for gratitude and joy.

SOURCE: Hearers of the Word by Augustinian friar and biblical scholar Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA.

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GOSPEL

The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’

John the Baptist was essential for the Jesus story and for that very reason each Gospel needed to locate him as somehow preparatory or secondary.

John the Baptist is the quintessential Advent figure in the Christian tradition, preparing us even today for the arrival of Jesus. This gospel passage (together with next Sunday’s) provides us with his basic teaching.

The Isaiah citation marks John out as someone who prepares for someone else. John was immensely significant—to an uncomfortable degree it would seem—for early Christianity. (His followers continue to exist today the Mandaeans.) Jesus had been a disciple of John and, as such, had accepted his baptism. Jesus’ own ministry started from the moment his mentor could no longer function.

Finally, Jesus’ initial proclamation resembled that of John himself. In other words, John the Baptist was essential for the Jesus story and for that very reason each Gospel needed to locate him as somehow preparatory or secondary. Mark’s discovery and use of Isaiah 40 (followed by Matthew 3:3; Luke 3:4 and even John 1:23) was a stroke of genius.

SOURCE: Hearers of the Word by Augustinian friar and biblical scholar Kieran J. O’Mahony, OSA.

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EDRIANNE EZELL

And all shall see

Our Sunday Readings


VINCE CONTRERAS

“The word of God came to John in the wilderness?

Year C Archive

FATHER EAMON TOBIN

Small-Group Sharing / Reflection

Year C Archive

Small group sharing exercises on the Sunday Readings to help you see the deeper significance in the events and encounters of your daily life.

FATHER CLEMENT THIBODEAU

Echoing God’s Word

Year C Archive

The word of God in the Bible is primarily addressed to the Church community. What does God want the community to hear today?

Carmelites

Lectio Divina Meditation

“Lectio divina,” a Latin term, means “divine reading” and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio divina. There are various ways of practicing Lectio divina either individually or in groups but Guigo’s description remains fundamental. READ MORE

Bishop David G. O’Connell

English/Spanish Text

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

Let Us Make the Journey Together

We are called during Advent to respond anew to St. John’s prophetic voice.

All of our readings for this Sunday remind us that we are making a journey through our earthly exile in this life on our way to eternal salvation in the promised heavenly Jerusalem. The Season of Advent is an especially appropriate time to reflect on that journey. We are called during Advent to respond anew to St. John’s prophetic voice. We need to confess and repent those sins that separate us from God, to make straight our paths on the journey of salvation, and to pray that all flesh shall see the salvation of God (Is 40:5b; Lk 3:6).  As a covenant people, we must take the time to prepare ourselves to relive the events of the First Advent of the Messiah. We do this with the knowledge that we must remain vigilant for the possibility that Christ could return at any moment to judge the world and receive the righteous into His everlasting glory in the New Jerusalem of the redeemed!

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
FIRST READING

The Joyful Journey to Jerusalem

The First Reading sets the theme of our readings. First, it describes the promised joyful return of the Jewish exiles of the Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem in the 6th century BC. Then, the passage looks beyond that historic return to the journey of redeemed humanity to the heavenly New Jerusalem of Christ the King.

Jewish and Christian traditions identify Baruch, the secretary and companion of the 6th century BC prophet Jeremiah, as the inspired writer of the Book of Baruch (Jer 36:1-31; 43:1-7). The book’s purpose is to impress upon later generations the circumstances of the Jews living in Babylon and the spirit of repentance necessary to bring their exile to an end and return them to the Promised Land and worship in the holy city of Jerusalem. The promise of the exiles’ return is the theme of this passage. However, it looks beyond the physical journey home to the Promised Land for the 6th-century BC exiles. It also encourages us to reflect on the spiritual journey of all the earthly exiles of the righteous in every generation. All people who love God and are called to His service make the spiritual journey to the Promised Land of the heavenly Jerusalem and the eternal future of the redeemed.

Baruch presents a picture of the returning faithful remnant of the exiles singing a song of joy as they make the homeward journey to Jerusalem. In verses 1-2, they are told to set aside their garments of mourning.  Instead, they are to figuratively put on a robe of righteousness and a crown of glory to display the divine name of Yahweh, like the sacred vestments and the head plate the Jewish high priest wore that bore the words “Sacred to Yahweh” (Ex 29:36-38; 39:30). The willingness to return to Jerusalem is symbolic of a spiritual renewal of the covenant people. They will become a sign to other nations of the earth of the peace of God’s justice and the glory that comes from worshiping of the One True God in the Jerusalem Temple (verses 3-4).

Verses 5-9 have an eschatological (end times) theme and promise a restoration that will extend beyond the Old Covenant people to embrace the entire world. The passage has parallels in the books of the prophets (e.g., Is 40:4-5; 49:18-22; 60:1-4; Jer 30:15-22; etc.), and an especially strong link to St. John’s vision of the Messianic Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation 21:1-4. Christ is our peace and our justice, and He is the glory of God promised in the passage. Jesus Christ demonstrates the piety with which we should ascend to our worship, and when we follow His example, we too will experience the spiritual renewal that will lead to the Promised Land of Heaven. St. Irenaeus (martyred AD 202) wrote concerning the promise of the New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation: “No allegorical interpretation of this can be given: everything is true and clear and defined, and God desires that it be so for the glory of righteous men. God raises man from the dead, and when the Kingdom comes, man will be brought to life with incorruptibility and made strong, and he will welcome in the glory of the Father. When everything has been renewed, he will truly live in the city of God” (Against Heresies, 5.35.2).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Remembering When Yahweh Brought Back the Captives

Response: “The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.”

This “Song of Ascent” can also be seen as the symbolic anticipation of all the righteous as they continue their earthly journeys with the hope that they may one day ascend to worship in the heavenly New Jerusalem Jesus has prepared for His redeemed people.

This psalm is one of the “Songs of Ascent” that pilgrims sang on their journey up to the holy city of Jerusalem to worship Yahweh at the Temple. It was the only place on earth where the faithful could offer legitimate sacrifice and worship to Yahweh (Dt 12:4-6, 11-12, 13-14; 2 Chron 3:1). In the psalm, the joy of the returning Jewish exiles from the Babylonian captivity is remembered in the pilgrim’s hymn of praise and thanksgiving as they too make their journey to the holy city. Verses 1-3 begin by describing the joy the pilgrims feel returning to Jerusalem thanks to the work of the Lord Yahweh. Then in verses 4-6, they petition God to bring back all the exiles who profess belief in Him, from wherever they might be in the world, to share in their good fortune and the joy of their redemption.

The gratitude and joy expressed for God’s great works in the psalm also appear in the Virgin Mary’s hymn of thanks and praise in the Magnificat where she prayed: “For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name” (Lk 1:49). The hope of returning to God for all who find themselves separated from Him expressed in the psalm finds fulfillment in the great work of God in the Incarnation and Resurrection of God the Son. He came to bring all humanity the joy of restoration and the promise of the ascent to the heavenly Jerusalem.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
SECOND READING

The Day of Christ Jesus

St. Paul prays for the Christian community at Philippi.

Our passage is from St. Paul’s letter to the Christian community of Philippi in Macedonia. It was the first European Christian community Paul founded on his second missionary journey in AD 50/51 (Acts 16:12-40). He may also have visited them twice during his third missionary journey (see Acts 20:1-23:1). The letter demonstrates that St. Paul had a special affection for this community.

St. Paul’s joy in Philippian Christians is one of the themes of his letter. The very thought of them brings him happiness because they have remained faithful to the Gospel from the day he founded them as a Christian community (verses 4-5). Paul will write to the Galatians that joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). It is also a Christian virtue intimately connected to works of charity (love in action) from which it derives as a gift of a soul in the grip of divine grace (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 2-2:23.4). Joy is a gift resulting from union with God and acknowledgment of His loving providence toward His creation. Joy gives Christians the experience of the peace of God in all their relationships and all circumstances. It is a work of grace God endows all the faithful and will come to completion on “the day of Jesus Christ” in His Second Advent (verse 6). Notice that St. Paul mentions the promised return of Christ twice, in verses 6 (“the day of Christ Jesus”) and 11 (“the day of Christ”). It is a future event that should always be on the mind of every Christian.

8 God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

St. Paul identifies so entirely with his Lord that he says he has the same affection for the Philippian community as Christ. Supernatural love raises human affection to a higher level. Paul’s letter is an example of how the two kinds of love, human and divine, are intertwined in the Christian. Pope St. Leo XIII taught: “Love of neighbor has to go hand in hand with charity and love of God, for all mankind shares in God’s infinite goodness and are made in his image and likeness” (Sapientiae Christianae, 51-52).

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, 10 to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

In verses 9-11, Paul prays that the community’s love will grow with their knowledge and discernment. The word “discernment” is from the Latin meaning “to distinguish between, determine, resolve, decide” (Modern Catholic Dictionary, page 111). Discernment is spiritual wisdom that enables the Christian to view events in life in a supernatural light and make decisions based on the will of God for their lives. It was gifted at Pentecost when the Church became infused with the divine essence of God the Holy Spirit and is why Christians no longer make decisions based on casting lots as was the practice in the Old Covenant Church before the coming of the Holy Spirit (Ex 33:71 Sam 14:41Acts 1:26). After receiving the gift of discernment at Pentecost, which all Christians now receive in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, Christians now pray for discerning the will of God by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In this passage, Paul’s prayers for the community concern growth in charity, characterized by love in action towards members of the human family. Since such works are a supernatural virtue, St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “one needs to ask God to increase it, since God alone can bring that about in us” (Commentary on Philippians). Growth in discerning the will of God for our lives means attaining a more intimate knowledge of God and thereby greater unity with Him. Such an increased unity prepares us in holiness for “the Day of Christ,” when He will return in glory to receive His holy Church as His Bride.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
GOSPEL

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Nothing will stand in John the Baptist’s way to hinder His coming or message, and all humanity will see the salvation of God (Is 40:5; Lk 3:6).

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar  – When Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar died on August 19th, AD 14, Tiberius, his stepson and heir, succeeded him. The first year of Tiberius’ reign, therefore, began on August 19th, AD 14. The 15th year is then, as the ancient’s counted without the concept of a zero place-value, August of AD 28. The ancient system of counting without a zero place-value is the reason Scripture records, and we still repeat, that Jesus was in the tomb for three days from Friday to Sunday (even parts of days or years counted). It is also why Scripture records that a woman carried a child for ten months (Wis 7:1-2), and why Jesus suffered on the Cross for six hours, giving up His life at the beginning of the seventh hour, from the third to the ninth hours Jewish time (from 9 AM to 3 PM; see Mk 25:15, 33-34, 37). See the book “Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice” available from Amazon.

Notice in verses 1-2 that St. Luke first places the beginning of St. John the Baptist’s ministry during the reign of the political leaders, followed by the administration of the religious leaders. The “Herod” referred to is Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and Malthace. Philip is another son of Herod the Great by his wife, Cleopatra of Jerusalem. The title “tetrarch” in verse 1 meant “ruler of a quarter.” However, it became the title of a subordinate prince, as in the case of Herod’s younger sons Herod Antipas and Herod Philip. Abilene was a territory northwest of Damascus ruled by a Roman ally named Lysanias (verse 1). Pontius Pilate was the Roman prefect of Judea, Samaria, and Idumaea from AD 26-36.

St. Luke also situates St. John’s ministry during the reign of Judea’s religious leaders: the High Priest Annas (AD 6-15) and his successor who condemned Jesus, his son-in-law Joseph Caiaphas (AD 18-37). God called Jesus’s older relative (by six months as the ancients counted), St. John, son of the chief priest Zechariah (Lk 1:13, 36, 57), to begin his ministry in the same way God had called His other prophets (Is 6:8; Jer 1:4; 2:1; Ez 1:2; 2:1-3; Ho 1:1; Joel 1:1; Jonah 1:1-2; etc.). See the chart on the rulers of Judea.

St. Luke further emphasizes the nature of John’s divine call by quoting from the book of the 8th -century BC prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:3-5, a passage also quoted in part by the other Gospel writers (Mt 3:3, Mk 1:3, and Jn 1:23). Matthew quotes verse 3 from the Isaiah text (Mt 3:3), as does the Gospel of John (Jn 1:23). However, only Luke quotes the entire passage of Isaiah 40:3-6, A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised a new Exodus similar to the first Exodus liberation when God liberated the children of Israel from Egyptian slavery, brought them through the desert wilderness to rescue them and secure their salvation (Dt 33:2; Ps 68:7-8). The passage poetically announces that God will remove all obstacles, and nothing will hinder His coming or the message of His gift of salvation to humanity. The paths and roadways that must be made straight are not physical thoroughfares but the people’s lives that must avoid the crooked ways of sin that have become obstacles/mountains that separate them from God. They must come to the straight paths of righteousness that lead to salvation. But the mysterious prophetic voice in the Isaiah 40:3-5 passage is not a person or agent of God in the Book of Isaiah. Instead, the unidentified prophetic voice announces a turning point in salvation history in the coming of God among His people and the wondrous, all-encompassing change the Lord’s coming will have on the world.  So, who is the prophetic voice?

Notice the universal theme of the Isaiah passage that is similar to Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:30-32 at Jesus’s Temple presentation after His birth. Isaiah says that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” and compare that statement to Simeon’s announcement as he held the Christ-child in his arms: “your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Simeon announces the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in the child he held!

The Isaiah passage relates to St. John the Baptist’s mission and Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:30-32. In quoting from the Isaiah passage, the Gospel writers all identified St. John the Baptist as the previously unidentified prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness of Judea and Perea on the east side of the Jordan River (Jn 1:19-28). His mission was to prepare the way for the coming of the Davidic Redeemer Messiah (e.g., Is 11:10-12Jer 23:5-6Ez 34:23-24). He fulfilled that mission by calling the covenant people to repent their sins and turn back to God so they could receive the gift of the Gospel of salvation and be the bearers of the message of that gift (voiced in Simeon’s prophecy) to the peoples of the world. As he held baby Jesus, Simeon praised God, saying, “for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Lk 2:30-32).

In our journey during the season of Advent, we respond anew to St. John’s prophetic voice. God calls us to confess and repent the sins that separate us from Him, to make straight our paths on the journey of salvation, and to pray that all flesh shall see the salvation of God. We must take the time to prepare to relive together, as a covenant people, the First Advent of the Messiah and to prepare for the possibility that He could come again at any moment a second time to receive all His faithful and righteous disciples into His glory!

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.
EARLY CHURCH FATHERS — SCRIPTURE SEARCH
PHILIP SCHAFF DIGITAL COLLECTION

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This Sunday’s Gospel references are highlighted in ORANGE. To further narrow results of the search, enter a specific verse in search box below. This tool can also be used to search for First Reading, Psalm, and Second Reading scripture references, if you like. 

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ST. THOMAS AQUINAS

Catena Aurea

St Thomas Aquinas’ Catena Aurea is a unique work of scriptural commentary which nites the teachings of both early Latin and Eastern Church Father. It affords the reader a look into the deep meaning of the Gospels as understood throughout early Church history.

Luke 3:1-2

1. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituræa 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.

COMMENTARY

GREGORY. (Hom. 20. in Ev.) The time at which the forerunner of the Saviour received the word of preaching, is marked by the names of the Roman sovereign and of the princes of Judæa, as it follows: Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, &c. For because John came to preach Him who was to redeem some from among the Jews, and many among the Gentiles, therefore the time of his preaching is marked out by making mention of the king of the Gentiles and the rulers of the Jews. But because all nations were to be gathered together in one, one man is described as ruling over the Roman state, as it is said, The reign of Tiberius Cæsar.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes) For the emperor Augustus being dead, from whom the Roman sovereigns obtained the name of “Augustus,” Tiberius being his successor in the monarchy, was now in the 15th year of his receiving the reins of government.

ORIGEN. In the word of prophecy, spoken to the Jews alone, the Jewish kingdom only is mentioned, as, The vision of Esaias, in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Is. 1:1.) But in the Gospel which was to be proclaimed to the whole world, the empire of Tiberius Cæsar is mentioned, who seemed the lord of the whole world. But if the Gentiles only were to be saved, it were sufficient to make mention only of Tiberius, but because the Jews also must believe, the Jewish kingdom therefore, or Tetrarchies, are also introduced, as it follows, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judæa, and Herod tetrarch, &c.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Because the Jews were to be scattered for their crime of treachery, the Jewish kingdom was shut up into parts under several governors. According to that saying, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. (Luke 11:17.)

BEDE. Pilate was sent in the twelfth year of Tiberius to take the government of the Jewish nation, and remained there for ten successive years, almost until the death of Tiberius. But Herod, and Philip, and Lysanias, were the sons of that Herod in whose reign our Lord was born. Between these and Herod himself Archelaus their brother reigned ten years. He was accused by the Jews before Augustus, and perished in exile at Vienne. But in order to reduce the Jewish kingdom to greater weakness, August us divided it into Tetrarchies.

GREGORY. Because John preached Him who was to be at the same time both King and Priest, Luke the Evangelist has marked the time of that preaching by the mention not only of Kings, but also of Priests. As it follows, Under the High Priests Annas and Caiaphas.

BEDE. Both Annas and Caiaphas, when John began his preaching, were the High Priests, but Annas held the office that year, Caiaphas the same year in which our Lord suffered on the cross. Three others had held the office in the intervening time, but these two, as having particular reference to our Lord’s Passion, are mentioned by the Evangelist. For at that time of violence and intrigue, the commands of the Law being no longer in force, the honour of the High Priest’s office was never given to merit or high birth, but the whole affairs of the Priesthood were managed by the Roman power. For Josephus relates, that Valerius Gratus, when Annas was thrust out of the Priesthood, appointed Ismael High Priest, the son of Baphas; but not long after casting him off, he put in his place Eleazar the son of the High Priest Ananias. After the space of one year, he expelled him also from the office, and delivered the government of the High Priesthood to a certain Simon, son of Caiaphas, who holding it not longer than a year, had Joseph, whose name also was Caiaphas, for his successor; so that the whole time during which our Lord is related to have taught is included in the space of four years.

AMBROSE. The Son of God being about to gather together the Church, commences His work in His servant. And so it is well said, The word of the Lord came to John, that the Church should begin not from man, but from the Word. But Luke, in order to declare that John was a prophet, rightly used these few words, The word of the Lord came to him. He adds nothing else, for they need not their own judgment who are filled with the Word of God. By saying this one thing, he has therefore declared all. But Matthew and Mark desired to shew him to be a prophet, by his raiment, his girdle, and his food.

CHRYSOSTOM. (in Matt. Hom. 10.) The word of God here mentioned was a commandment, for the son of Zacharias came not of himself, but God moved him.

THEOPHYLACT. Through the whole of the time until his shewing himself he was hid in the wilderness, that no suspicion might arise in men’s minds, that from his relation to Christ, and from his intercourse with Him from a child, he would testify such things of Him; and hence he said, I knew him not. (John 1:33.)

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (de Virg. c. 6.) Who also entered this life at once in the spirit and power of Elias, removed from the society of men, in uninterrupted contemplation of invisible things, that he might not, by becoming accustomed to the false notions forced upon us by our senses, fall into mistakes and errors in the discernment of good men. And to such a height of divine grace was he raised, that more favour was bestowed upon him than the Prophets, for from the beginning even to the end, he ever presented his heart before God pure and free from every natural passion.

AMBROSE. Again, the wilderness is the Church itself, for the barren has more children than she who has an husband. The word of the Lord came, that the earth which was before barren might bring forth fruit unto us.

Luke 3:3-6

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;

6. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

COMMENTARY

AMBROSE. The Word came, and the voice followed. For the Word first works inward, then follows the office of the voice, as it is said, And he went into all the country about Jordan.

ORIGEN. Jordan is the same as descending, for there descends from God a river of healing water. But what parts would John be traversing but the country lying about Jordan, that the penitent sinner might soon arrive at the flowing stream, humbling himself to receive the baptism of repentance. For it is added, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) It is plain to every reader that John not only preached the baptism of repentance, but to some also he gave it, yet his own baptism he could not give for the remission of sins.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) For as the sacrifice had not yet been offered up, nor had the holy Spirit descended, how could remission of sins be given? What is it then that St. Luke means by the words, for the remission of sins? Seeing the Jews were ignorant, and knew not the weight of their sins, and because this was the cause of their evils, in order that they might be convinced of their sins and seek a Redeemer, John came exhorting them to repentance, that being thereby made better and sorrowful for their sins, they might be ready to receive pardon. Rightly then after saying, that he came preaching the baptism of repentance, he adds, for the remission of sins. As if he should say, The reason by which he persuaded them to repent was, that thereby they would the more easily obtain subsequent pardon, believing on Christ. For if they were not led by repentance, in vain could they ask for grace, other than as a preparation for faith in Christ.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or John is said to preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, because the baptism which was to take away sin, as he could not give, he preached; just as the Incarnate Word of the Father preceded the word of preaching, so the baptism of repentance, which was able to take away sin, was preceded by John’s baptism, which could not take away sin.

AMBROSE. And therefore many say that St. John is a type of the Law, because the Law could denounce sin, but could not pardon it.

GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 39.) To speak now of the difference of baptisms. Moses indeed baptized, but in the water, the cloud, and the sea, but this was done figuratively. John also baptized, not indeed according to the Jewish rite, (for he baptized not only with water,) but also for the remission of sins, yet not altogether spiritually, (for he adds not, in the Spirit.) Jesus baptizes but with the Spirit, and this is perfect baptism. There is also a fourth baptism, namely by martyrdom and blood, by which also Christ Himself was baptized, and which is so far more glorious than the others, as it is not sullied by repeated acts of defilement. There is also a fifth, the most weary, according to which David every night washed his bed and his couch with tears. It follows, As it is written in the book of Esaias the Prophet, The voice of one crying in the wilderness. (Is. 40:3.)

AMBROSE. John the forerunner of the Word is rightly called the voice, because the voice being inferior precedes, the Word, which is more excellent, follows.

GREGORY. (7, 20. in Ev.) John cries in the desert because he brings the glad tidings of redemption to deserted and forsaken Judæa, but what he cries is explained in the words, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. For they who preach true faith and good works, what else do they than prepare the way for the Lord’s coming into the hearts of the hearers, that they might make the paths of God straight, forming pure thoughts in the mind by the word of good preaching.

ORIGEN. Or, a way must be prepared in our heart for the Lord, for the heart of man is large and spacious if it has become clean. For imagine not that in the size of the body, but in the virtue of the understanding, consists that greatness which must receive the knowledge of the truth. Prepare then in thy heart by good conversation a way for the Lord, and by perfect works pursue the path of life, that so the word of God may have free course in thee.

BASIL. (non occ.) And because a path is a way trodden down by those that have gone before, and which former men have worn away, the word bids those who depart from the zeal of their predecessors repeatedly pursue it.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) But to cry, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, was not the office of the king, but of the forerunner. And so they called John the voice, because he was the forerunner of the Word.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (in Esai. 40. lib. 3.) But suppose some one should answer, saying, How shall we prepare the way of the Lord, or how shall we make His paths straight? since so many are the hindrances to those who wish to lead an honest life. To this the word of prophecy replies, There are some ways and paths by no means easy to travel, being in some places hilly and rugged, in others steep and precipitous; to remove which it says, Every valley shall be filled, every mountain and hill shall he brought low. Some roads are most unequally constructed, and while in one part rising, in another sloping downwards, are very difficult to pass. And here he adds, And the crooked ways shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth. But this was in a spiritual manner brought to pass by the power of our Saviour. For formerly to pursue an Evangelical course of life was a difficult task, for men’s minds were so immersed in worldly pleasures. But now that God being made Man, has condemned sin in the flesh, all things are made plain, and the way of going has become easy, and neither hill nor valley is an obstacle to those who wish to advance.

ORIGEN. For when Jesus had come and sent His Spirit, every valley was filled with good works, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit, which if thou hast, thou wilt not only cease to become a valley, but will begin also to be a mountain of God.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Or by the valleys he means a quiet habitual practice of virtue, as in the Psalms, The valleys shall be filled with corn. (Ps. 65:13.)

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) He denounces the haughty and arrogant by the name of mountains, whom Christ has brought low. But by the hills He implies the wreckless, not only because of the pride of their hearts, but because of the barrenness of despair. For the hill produces no fruit.

ORIGEN. Or you may understand the mountains and hills to be the hostile powers, which have been overthrown by the coming of Christ.

BASIL. (non occ.) But as the hills differ from mountains in respect of height, in other things are the same, so also the adverse powers agree indeed in purpose, but are distinguished from one another in the enormity of their offences.

GREGORY. (20. in Ev.) Or, the valley when filled increases, but the mountains and hills when brought low decrease, because the Gentiles by faith in Christ receive fulness of grace, but the Jews by their sin of treachery have lost that wherein they boasted. For the humble receive a gift because the hearts of the proud they keep afar off.

CHRYSOSTOM. (in Matt. Hom. 10.) Or by these words he declares the difficulties of the law to be turned into the easiness of faith; as if he said, No more toils and labours await us, but grace and remission of sins make an easy way to salvation.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Or, He orders the valleys to be filled, the mountains and hills to be cast down, to shew that the rule of virtue neither fails from want of good, nor transgresses from excess.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But the crooked places are become straight, when the hearts of the wicked, perverted by a course of injustice, are directed to the rule of justice. But the rough ways are changed to smooth, when fierce and savage dispositions by the influence of Divine grace return to gentleness and meckness.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) He then adds the cause of these things, saying, And all flesh shall see, &c. shewing that the virtue and knowledge of the Gospel shall be extended even to the end of the world, turning mankind from savage manners and perverse wills to meekness and gentleness. Not only Jewish converts but all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) That is, of the Father, who sent His Son as our Saviour. But the flesh is here taken for the whole man.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Or else, All flesh, i. e. Every man can not see the salvation of God in Christ in this life. The Prophet therefore stretches his eye beyond to the last day of judgment, when all men both the elect and the reprobate shall equally see Him.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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