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Second Sunday of Advent, 2018: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luc 3:1-6; Bar 5:1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11)
By Augustine Agwulonu
Fri, 07 Dec 2018

St. Luke tells the history of salvation with passion! He presents characters and events in his Gospel with an artistic vivacity. And he exposes dynamics of God’s governorship of the world. In today’s Gospel reading two worlds are practically colliding with each other. These are: the exclusive world of the Jews (their politics and religion). The rulers and religious personalities, which Luke enumerates in today’s Gospel, reveal this world. Then there is the world of the in-breaking universal salvation, which John the Baptist heralds. 

Compare the Gospel with the first reading and you would observe a striking difference. In the first reading, God is the single subject of the many verbs in the text. And Jerusalem and Israel are the objects. So, all what God does is for Jerusalem and Israel:
God shows the splendor of Jerusalem, 
God’s Word gathers the children of Jerusalem,
God remembers Jerusalem,
God brings back the children of Jerusalem from exile,
God commands forests and fragrant trees for Israel,
God leads Israel to joy,
God accompanies Israel with his mercy and justice. 
But in the Gospel, Luke states that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Thus, at the time of the in-breaking new epoch, the first person to be mentioned is the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar. He is followed by Pontus Pilate, a Roman governor of Judaea before even the Jewish rulers and their high priests are mentioned. Positively, this assemblage of foreign and indigenous rulers in the locality where John proclaims the message demonstrates that the salvation he proclaims is universal, i.e., for “all flesh.” 
However, there is also a critical side to this constellation of personalities. Are they serving the purpose of salvation for all? John is in the desert, where he receives the Word of God. But we can also observe that the cities of Jerusalem are also deserts of their own! The political and religious rulers have practically become sedentary and sterile in advancing the interest of God’s salvation for Israel in particular and for the entire world in general. The conservation and management of power, both political and religious have turned the cities into monuments of dry civilization. People are practically being choked and scorched by the heat, the wave and the dry dust of a “civilized aridity” created by unscrupulous political and religious oligarchs! 
On the contrary, in the real and natural desert in Israel, John receives God’s Word. He proceeds to the wet land of the Jordan region to stir the water of baptism for repentance, for the forgiveness of sin and for a new life. He inaugurates the beginning of the epoch for the universal salvation of God. Make no mistake about it, John is rooted in the traditional process of God’s salvation for his people. We see this in John’s associations with: the voix of the prophet Isaiah, Zechariah, the Word of God and even the desert as a place where Israel crosses in order to access the promised land. John ushers in the new order of renewal and the full realization of salvation for all flesh. 
And so, John calls everyone to prepare for the universal salvation: 
“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. 

The is a personal call to each and everyone who desires to share in the salvation for all flesh. In the second reading, St. expresses what this call means when he prays for the Philippians saying: 
“And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more 
in knowledge and every kind of perception, 
to discern what is of value, 
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 
filled with the fruit of righteousness 
that comes through Jesus Christ 
for the glory and praise of God.

This too is our prayer through Christ our Lord, Amen! 

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