At some point in our journey of faith we have to get to grips with scripture, not as a set of writings, not even as a guide for life but as an encounter with the Word that is God. This Sunday, the first reading from Baruch and the Gospel account from Luke about John the Baptist have at their heart a call by the word of God, for both emphasize the aspect of that call, in Baruch the children of Jerusalem are called to rejoicing and to remember that they are being led by the light of God’s glory to journey to a new Jerusalem, accompanied by mercy and justice as their companions. This theme is echoed by Luke, who tells us that John was in the desert alone when the word of God came to him and called him out to an itinerant life and ministry. Preparing the way for the Lord by preaching repentance, John points out the way of the Lord, so that we,forgiven and unencumbered by the burdens of sin may journey on to seek and find the true salvation of our God who comes from on high to be among us!
These are poetic and magnificent words, they have rung down the centuries and are as meaningful now as when they first came to be written down as a record of God’s constant love for us through people and events, but they also challenge us. They still ask us if we prepare the way of the Lord in our life, do we as Baruch says remove the clothing of mourning and distress from others? Do we seek to hear God’s word , do we let the scriptures waken up our thoughts and encounters to help us move onwards in our lives? Since Luke introduces us to John’s vocation and the passage from Baruch echoes this type of calling, perhaps a short mediation on John’s role might help us?
John the Baptist is a particular favorite saint of the Eastern Church, on the iconostasis, that screen separating the ‘nave’ from the ‘sanctuary’ of the Byzantine church, he is placed to the right of the Icon of Christ the Pantaocrator pointing to him whilst Mary, the Theotokos, is placed on the left, the three are often called the ‘Deeisis’ meaning prayer or supplication, that is Mary and John showing God revealed in the majestic Christ of glory. That is part of the calling of God’s word to us though these readings,like John the Baptist we are to be heralds, to strengthen others through our mission of prayer and supplication that is the everyday showing forth of Christ in our world. The last word can be left to Paul who reminds us of the need to pray for each other in the love of Christ.
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Chaplain for the Melkite Greek Catholics in Britain.