Bar 5:1-9, Phi 1:3-6, 8-11, Lk 3:1-6….Getting Ready: Removing Obstacles to Complete Joy.Coming Events Cast Their Shadows; Prepare the Way of the Lord; We Are Filled with Joy; Optimism.

Attempts to make sense of life are universal. A famous poet (TS. Eliot) expressed the wish to have carved on his gravestone about life: “I’ve had the experience, but I’ve missed the meaning.” Viktor Frank], an Austrian Jewish psychiatrist who was thrown into the concentration camp of Auschwitz during World War II, addressed his fellow prisoners as they were lying motionless in despair-filled silence with only an occasional sigh in the darkness of their cell.

He told them that whoever is still alive has reason for hope; that whatever they were going through could still be an asset to them in the future; that the meaning of human life includes privation, suffering, and dying; that someone was looking down on each of them with love — friend, wife, somebody else alive or dead, or God—and wouldn’t want to be disappointed. They should courageously integrate their life into a worldview that has a meaning beyond immediate self—grasping, and know how to die.

Does your acquaintance with life find this optimism and hope remote? Does your experience make you dwell upon the shadow side of life, the many ways in which we suffer, fail, lose heart, or feel that nothing’s worthwhile? Are you as unimaginatively pessimistic as the old lady who was taken to see the beautiful ballet “Swan Lake”? Later, when asked how she liked the story, she said to her friend: “He fell in love with a duck. So what good could come of it?”

Today’s liturgy constitutes a vision of optimism and hope that can sing of the Lord’s wonders and recognize His providence at work in everything that happens Today’s portion of the Book of Baruch was written by an anonymous author around 200 B.C., probably at Alexandria for the Jews living there who had a problem keeping their faith: The Temple was far away, they were living in a culture which was completely opposed to the heritage of Judaism, and some were finding local prosperity very attractive, to the detriment of their faith. Significantly telling the Jews to “look to the east,” today’s passage personifies Jerusalem as a mother about to receive back her exiled children.

In a broader sense, the passage urges all who are struggling with faith in an alien culture to stand up, to have confidence, to be strong. The mood of the passage is full of celebration. Inasmuch as it directs our attention toward how expectation and anticipation of the Messiah find fulfilment in the birth of the child in Bethlehem, it’s good Advent reading. Baruch’s image of flattening the high mountains and filling out the valleys was frequent in First Testament times. It derived from the custom of having a herald precede a king when the king was going on a journey, to forewarn the inhabitants of his arrival so that they could repair their ill—kept roads.

St Luke begins his narrative of Jesus’ public ministry with John the Baptist, who was straightening out the crooked paths of human hearts and levelling the valleys and hills of people’s selfishness to prepare them for Jesus. The Baptist was also trying to straighten out the calf—paths of the human mind “—— those paths into which human minds, like some modern roads, continue to follow primitive trails made by calves for their own reasons, but which reasons are no longer valid for people. John’s personality, conviction, and enthusiasm for his message caused people to overlook his odd dress and come to him.

Luke provides a roll—call of who held power at the time. Five of his seven historical figures are secular, two religious, Among the secular figures, all of the individuals mentioned were corrupt, cruel, lecherous, barbaric, and depraved, and provide a great contrast for the righteousess of John the Baptist’s message.
The religious leadership links the story of salvation history to events in contemporary Palestinian and world history. Luke reserves the place of honour for the high priest. Annas had occupied that post from A.D. 6 to 15, when he was deposed by the Romans. For three years he was succeeded by various members of his family and then, from A.D. 18 to 36, by his son-in-law, Caiaphas. Though Caiaphas was the actual high priest, it was to the more powerful and influential Annas that everyone, including Caiaphas, paid honour.