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, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 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. 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. (Lk 3:1-6)
- THE FIFTEENTH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF TIBERIUS
Petition: Blessed are you, God, who lives forever, because your kingdom lasts throughout all ages (Tobit 13:1). Almighty Father, Creator of Heaven and earth, you are the Lord of history, the King of ages; you have revealed your salvation and yourself in the history of humanity to teach us where and how you work in the lives and souls of the righteous. Help us to open our story, here and now, to your saving power and to you. Never let our faith be about intellectual concepts or abstract ideas, but about the concrete and immediate personal encounter with you, here and now, within the concrete situations and circumstances of our own stories.
We are Christian because we believe in the events that happened in history. We don’t believe in ideas, philosophies, or laws. We believe in a God who works in human history; a God that in one moment of human history, about 4,000 years ago, chose a man from Ur of Chaldea:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Ex 12:1)
And 2,000 years ago, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee” (Lk 3:1) he brought his revelation through the history of Israel to fulfillment in the incarnation of his eternal Son (cf. Ga 4:4-6). He took 2,000 years to prepare a People that were capable of opening to God in humility, poverty and trust. And in that childlike remnant of Israel, he sent his Son to bring salvation to the whole world.
God worked in the history of Israel, continues to work in human history, and will always and only work in human history. He works in the entirety of human history, ruling it according to the almighty purpose of his will; but he also works in my story in the measure in which I allow him to work in me (cf. 1 Peter 2:25).
As Christians, we believe in facts because salvation is a matter of facts. It is about the concrete and immediate action of God here and now; just like it was 2,000 thousand years ago in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which occurred during a specific period of time and in a concrete place that we now call the Holy Land or Israel. Without the facts of what happened in that time, there is no salvation. And without my faith and hope founded in those facts and deeds of God, there is no actual action of God.
Always remember: God is about here and now. His action is in the present moment, in my daily life, in my story with its concrete situations and circumstances. Outside of reality, creation, and the present moment, there is no action of God. If our faith doesn’t become as concrete as a single, humble “fiat” here and now, our faith is just an idea. God is not an idea. “Blessed are you God who lives forever, because your kingdom lasts throughout all ages” (Tobit 13:1).
- PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD
Petition: Mary, my dear Mother, Mother of God, I want to change my heart. I want to prepare my heart for the coming of the Lord as you did. All your childhood was a preparation of your Immaculate heart for the coming of your beloved God: of the Messiah to Israel. And God surprised you with the Annunciation and the Incarnation of God the Son in your womb; dear Mother, help me to prepare my heart for the coming of Jesus, so God can surprise me with his coming.
God is coming! This is the announcement of the Gospel. Do we eagerly await his coming? Are we preparing our hearts for his coming? Are we getting rid of the mountains of pride or the valleys of depression and hopelessness? Are we preparing a way for the Lord in our hearts?
In this time of Advent, all the prayers and antiphons of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Masses invite us to prepare our hearts for his coming. The goal is that he, the Almighty, can do great things within us, but he cannot work in us without our desire and hope in him—desire and hope without the expectation of his gifts, favors, blessings or graces.
To you, I lift up my soul, O my God. In you, I have trusted; let me not be put to shame. Nor let my enemies exult over me; and let none who hope in you be put to shame. (cf. Ps 24:1-3; Entrance Antiphon 1st Sunday of Advent)
Listen to these amazing invitations from the Word of God, inviting us to open our hearts in expectation to his coming so he might come to us:
Behold, the Lord will come, and all his holy ones with him; and on that day there will be a great light. (cf. Zec 14:5, Entrance Antiphon 1st Tuesday of Advent)
The Just Judge will bestow a crown of righteousness on those who eagerly await his coming. (cf. 2 Tm 4:8, Communion Antiphon, Ibid)
Behold, our Lord will come with power and will enlighten the eyes of his servants. (cf. Is 40:10;35:5, Communion Antiphon, Wednesday 1st week)
As we can see, if we pay attention to the liturgy, it is all about stirring up the desire of his coming and how that desire will let him to do great things in us. The prayers at Mass are also all about preparing for the One who comes. For instance, the first Tuesday prayer at the beginning of the Mass (Collect Prayer) is this:
Look with favor, Lord God, on our petitions, and in our trials grant us your compassionate help, that, consoled by the presence of your Son, whose coming we now await, we may be tainted no longer by the corruption of former ways.
It is our choice to make this desire for Jesus real in our will and affections now.
- COMFORT, COMFORT MY PEOPLE
Comfort, comfort, now my people;
Tell of peace,” so says our God.
Comfort those who sit in darkness
Mourning under sorrow’s load.
To God’s people now proclaim
That God’s pardon waits for them!
Tell them that their war is over;
God will reign in peace forever.
For the herald’s voice is crying
In the desert far and near,
Calling us to true repentance,
Since the Kingdom now is here.
Oh, that warning cry obey!
Now prepare for Christ a way!
Let the valleys rise to meet him,
And the hills bow down to greet him!
Straight shall be what long was crooked,
And the rougher places plain!
Let your hearts be true and humble,
As befits his holy reign!
For the glory of the Lord
Now on earth is shed abroad,
And all flesh shall see the token
That God’s word is never broken. (Johann Olearius)