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December 5, 1997     The Message
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The.M#.s.sage -- for Catholics ,of southwestern Indiana, John the Baptizer: A place in By FATHER DONALD DILGER Columnist Gospel Commentary for December 7, 1997: Sec- ond Sunday of Advent: Cycle C: Luke 3:1-6 The Church always devotes the second and third Sundays of Advent to the preaching of John the Bap- tist. We recall from last week's column that Luke stat- ed his intention to correct or put into proper order the accounts of the deeds and words of Jesus written prior to his own gospel. The only one of those sources used by Luke that is easily attainable for comparison is the Gospel of Mark. Mark begins with John the Baptizer suddenly coming upon the scene with no clue whatsoever as to his identity or place in history. In contrast to Mark, Luke attempted in his very first chapter to give John parents and a home by using Old Testament sources to describe John's wondrous conception, birth, and hint at his training in the wilderness to prepare him for his ministry as imme- diate predecessor of Jesus. In today's gospel Luke takes another step. He places John the Baptizer within a particular period of the Roman Empire which totally dominated the whole Mediterranean area including Palestine where both John and Jesus were to exercise their respective ministrieS. Luke places the beginning of John's min- istry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, who reigned from the death of Augustus in 14 A.D. to,37 A.D. Thus John begins his preaching in 28-29 A.D. Luke next lists the various lesser potentates who ruled their respective areas by appointment or per- mission of Tiberius Caesar. Pontius Pilate was gover- nor or, to use the correct historical title, "prefect" of Judea, a position Pilate held from 26- A.D. Next mentign  qre:two sons of Herod the Great who inherited:part s of Herod's kingdom when he died in i i iii 4 B.C. First is Herod Antipas who ruled Galilee, the province of Jesus' origin, from 4 B.C. to 39 A:D. This Herod became responsible for the martyrdom of John the Baptizer and plays a role in Luke's passion narra- tive. The other Herod sibling Luke mentions is Herod Philip. He ruled lands north and east of the Sea of Galilee, lands upon which Jesus' ministry touched from time to time. With mention of an obscure ruler, Lysanias, Luke ends his list of secular rulers. This Lysanias ruled an area bordering the cities of Tyre and Sidon, areas also touched by Jesus' ministry, and perhaps by that of John the Baptizer. In the religious sphere Luke mentions the high priests Annas, 6-15 A.D., and Caiaphas, 18-36 A.D., whose fame or infamy rests on their role in the pas- sion narratives. Finally Luke gets to John ben- Zechariah, known to us as John the Baptist or Baptiz- er. His ministry is centered on the Jordan River. His ministry emphasized a form of external washing, a baptism, as a symbol of internal repentance from sin. Thus John would have needed ample water to bap- tize "the multitudes," according to Luke, that went out to John. Very important is Luke's reference to John the Baptizer's location "in the wilderness," for in the Old Testament the traditional place of cleans- ing for God's people is in the wilderness, in the desert. It is in the wilderness that God prepared and tested his people before they were ready to enter the land promised to them. That pattern is maintained in the theological geography of the gospels. More importantly is the Old Testament tradition of the role the wilderness plays in the life of the prophet Elijah, in whose role and garb the gospels cast John the Bap- tizer. Early Christian theology saw in John the return of Elijah, who was expected by the Jews to return to cleanse God's people for the advent or arrival of Yah- weh himself That tradition was based on the legend of the "rapture" or taking up of Elijah to heaven in a flaming chariot, II Kings 2:11. Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Philipp With the mention of John the Baptizer's a pear- 3: 1-6. i WASHINGTON-SHOALS-LOOGOOTEE II ii i Vincennes Bicknell Sandbom Monroe City AmBank Princeton "','-"'* "" Patoka Member F.D.I.C. i i I i i iiiii I Count on us for professional medical care, any time of the day or nlghL ;.,, 1314 Grand Avenue WsK.on, Indian= 47501 (s12) 2s,,- www.dchmp.org I I SAVINGS BANK, FSB | 200 E. Van Trees St., Washington | 500 Main St.,, Peterurg I I II IIII Dr. Jane A. Hormuth Chiropractic Physician 474-0704 1111 S Green River Rd., Suite 104 II III1[ I I Ill ..... I Vanderburgh Co. Right-To,Life 474-3195 Evansville, Indiana ii  Peoples I rust Company SOUTH MAIN STREET P.O. 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T FS Tray/or S'' r' Box 68 Montgomery, Indiana Donald J. Traylor President phone! ance in the wilderness Luke has the Gospel of Mark. Immediately from Mark to omit a quote from the which Mark mistakenly attributes Mark next quotes from Isaiah, greatly expands the quote. The famous words, "The voice wilderness: Prepare the way of the paths straight." These words from Isaiah nally described the person and B.C. prophet we call Second Isaiah liberation of the Jewish people from and their return to the Holy Land. Our authors appropriately appl and work of John the Baptizer. from Mark and adds two more stanzas. words of these two stanzas are for Luke' presentation because of a his whole gospel, universal salvation or of the Gentiles. Therefore he adds flesh shall see the salvation of God." In ancient times Advent or 'q technical term for the arrival of a given country or city on a tour of the under his control or lordship. Some of the were in fact addressed and Christianity adopted the concept coming or arrival of the King of Kings, 1 On this Second Sunday of Advent the preaching of John the Baptizer hearts of his people for the arrival at a point in history. That event oc but Jesus continues to come into the are willing to repent and live the ba proclaimed. May we be among those writes in today's gospel, "All tion of God."