Scripture Studies, December 9, 2018 Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018 Second Sunday of Advent

Advent is a celebration lasting for four Sundays which focuses on the “already” and the “not yet” aspects of Christianity as we wait for the complete manifestation of the Kingdom. Among the things pointed out by the Advent season are the three ways in which Christ entered and still enters our world:

  1. He was born in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago.
  2. He comes to us every day in each of our sisters and brothers.
  3. He will come again in glory as the victorious, Messianic King of Kings.

Today, at the Second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel introduces one of the central characters of Advent. John the Baptizer appears to challenge the way things “have always been.” Using the words of Isaiah, John calls upon us to repent and turn more fully toward God. He encourages us to make a new beginning. In this he echoes the sentiments of the first reading which sought to comfort Israel with the assurance that God would restore Israel to favor before Him and among the nations. In the second reading Paul assures his readers that God will complete the good work that the Lord has begun in them. Appropriate questions for us to ask ourselves at this time might be: What are the mountains that must be made low and the valleys that must be filled in, in our own lives? How can I give concrete expression to this repentance in my daily life?


First Reading: Baruch 5:1-9

1 Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: 2 Wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. 3 For God will show all the earth your splendor: 4 you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. 5 Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. 6 Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. 7 For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, And that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. 8 The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; 9 For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.

NOTES on First Reading:

* 5:1-9 This chapter of nine verses is the last part of the fourth section of Baruch (beginning at 4:30) which deals with the Consolation of Jerusalem and prophesies the end of the captivity. The ideal city of Jerusalem was presented in Bar 4:5-29 as the solicitous mother of all exiles. In (Bar 4:30-5:9) she is assured in the name of God that all her children will be restored to her when the Lord frees them from their captivity and restores them to the land.

Second Reading: Philippians 1:4-6,8-11

4 {Brothers and sisters : I am} praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, 5 because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 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.

NOTES on Second Reading:

* 1:4 Joy is a major characteristic of this letter.

* 1:5 They shared not only by sending money but by their witness and sufferings for the Gospel.

* 1:6 The day of Christ Jesus refers to the Parousia or triumphant return of Christ, when those loyal to him will be with him and share in his eternal glory. The earliest believers expected this to occur very soon; Phil 1:10; 2:16; 3:20-21; 1 Thes 4:17; 5:10; 2 Thes 1:10; 1 Cor 1:8. These characteristics evidence the community’s continuing preparation for the Lord’s Parousia (Phil 1:6,10).

* 1:7-8 These verses suggest Paul’s especially warm relationship with the Philippians.

* 1:9 Although Paul usually uses a blessing or thanksgiving here he includes a direct prayer for the Philippians (Phil 1:9-11).

Gospel Reading: Luke 3:1-6

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went throughout (the) whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. 5 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, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”

NOTES on Gospel:

* 3:1-20 Although Luke is indebted in this section to his sources, the Gospel of Mark and a collection of sayings of John the Baptist, he has clearly marked this introduction to the ministry of Jesus with his own individual style. Just as the gospel began with a long periodic sentence (Luke 1:1-4), so too this section (Luke 3:1-2). He casts the call of John the Baptist in the form of an Old Testament prophetic call (Luke 3:2) and extends the quotation from Isaiah found in Mark 1:3 (Isaiah 40:3) by the addition of Isaiah 40:4-5 in Luke 3: 5-6. In doing so, he presents his theme of the universality of salvation, which he has announced earlier in the words of Simeon (Luke 2:30-32).

* Tiberius succeeded Augustus as emperor in A.D. 14 and reigned until A.D. 37. The fifteenth year of his reign, depending on the method of calculating his first regnal year, would have fallen between A.D. 27 and 29. Pontius Pilate was prefect of Judea from A.D. 26 to 36. The Jewish historian Josephus describes him as a greedy and ruthless prefect who had little regard for the local Jewish population and their religious practices (see Luke 13:1). Herod is Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great. He ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39. His official title, tetrarch, means literally, “ruler of a quarter,” but came to designate any subordinate prince. Philip, also a son of Herod the Great, was tetrarch of the territory to the north and east of the Sea of Galilee from 4 B.C. to A.D. 34. Only two small areas of this territory are mentioned by Luke. Nothing is known about this Lysanias who is said here to have been tetrarch of Abilene, a territory northwest of Damascus.

* 3:2-3 The Baptist calls for a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s life from rebellion to obedience, towards God. The kingdom of heaven is at hand: “heaven” (literally, “the heavens”) is a substitute for the name “God” that was avoided by devout Jews of the time out of reverence. The expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the gospel of Matthew. It means the effective rule of God over his people. In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God’s word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, supremely over death. In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish, an expectation shared by the Baptist. This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the Parousia of Jesus.

* 3:4 The quote is from Isa 40:3-5. The Essenes from Qumran used the same passage to explain why their community was in the desert studying and observing the law and the prophets.

* 3:5-6 Only Luke adds these two verses from Isaiah. Mark and Matthew end the quotation at the third line. By adding the next part of the quote Luke emphasizes the idea of universal salvation. </FONT


Scripture text: New American Bible with revised New Testament copyright © 1986,1970, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.
Commentary Sources:
Vince Del Greco
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (1990) (Eds. Brown, Fitzmyer & Murphy)

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