Baruch, a disciple of Jeremiah, encourages the people with a great vision (Bar 5:1-9). Baruch spoke during a time of exile. He promises a glorious return.
Many of the refugees from the Israeli invasion in 1947 are still living in refugee camps. Many of them still have the keys to the doors of the houses they abandoned. Understanding the plight of today’s Palestinian refugees helps us to understand what exile meant to the people in Baruch’s time. It was a painful experience filled with minute by minute longing for return to their land and to their homes. The same holds true for refugees in other parts of the world today in places such as Darfur and Iraq. All refugees long for return.
Baruch encourages the people. Shed the mantle of misery and oppression. A better day is coming. The splendor of glory they will don is none other than the cloak of God’s justice where all things will be made right. Go up the mountains and look. Your children are returning from east to west. They are returning in glory. The mountains will be made low and the gorges filled to level ground to expedite their return. God is leading them back. Return is evidence of God’s mercy and justice.
During Advent we long for return. Jesus has reopened the gates of Paradise and yet we are still in exile from paradise. We long for the day when justice and peace shall prevail. As we await the deliverance of return, we are sending more troops to Afghanistan. We are building bigger and better nuclear weapons while calling for nuclear disarmament. We can find trillions for war and the war machine but we cannot feed 17 million hungry American kids.
We are far away from where we want to be. We live in a world where greed, not God, drives our decision making. We long to be one with God and one another and yet we are so far apart.
In spite of this, we can say, “God has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.” We know that God is dwelling among us.
Paul sets the tone (Phil 1:4-6, 8-11). His prayer is that our love will increase. He wants us to have the wisdom to discern what is of God. Peace, justice and nonviolence are of God. Strife, oppression, and violence are of Greed. He wants us to have the fruit of righteousness which comes from Jesus, the Christ, who has come and is coming.
We leave Baruch’s Jerusalem and wander west into the desert region near the Dead Sea (Lk 3:1-6). There we see a wild-eyed prophet of a man. He lives on the fruit of this barren and desolate land. He is on fire. He is calling for repentance, metanoia. People, who want something better than oppression and militarized violence, are flocking out into this desolate land to hear his message and receive his baptism. Jesus was among those who ventured out and was baptized.
John is the forerunner. He is preparing the way for the Way. Baruchian mountains will be laid low and gorges will be filled to smooth the path for the Nonviolent Prophet who is in formation as John preaches. Reading this brings to mind the opening tenor aria from the Messiah:
“Comfort ye . . .
Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted,
And every mountain and hill made low.”
The chorus responds:
“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Halleluja! Halleluja! Halleluja!
Justice and peace shall flourish. Our God is with us and is coming with renewed glory and strength. Let us prepare the way.