Liberation as Emmanuel Second Sunday of Advent (C)
Baruch 5:1-9 Psalm 126 Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 Luke 3:1-6
The first reading is from the Book of Baruch. Baruch was the scribe for the prophet Jeremiah. He lived during the 6thcentury B.C. According to the first verses of the book, Baruch wrote this book five years after the holy city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylonians, referred to in Baruch as the Chaldeans. The center of the Babylonian empire was the city of Babylon, now located in modern day Iraq.
In the reading, Baruch prophecies that one day God will free the Jewish people in a similar way as God, through the leadership of Moses, freed the Jewish people from Egyptian domination and rule. God will do so, prophecies Baruch, by gathering all his children “from the east and the west”.
The Psalm describes the joyful reaction of the Jewish people as they are freed by God. They are described as “filled with laughter” and so surprised at being freed by God that they seem to be “dreaming”, but they are not; they are experiencing reality, a reality of joyful freedom.
To emphasize that Jesus, the liberator sent by God and who is God, is not a person in a dream but rather is a person who truly came in history the gospel passage, points out Brant Pitre, provides precise dating when Jesus coming was announced by John the Baptist. Luke states that John the Baptist announced the coming of Jesus the liberator, the coming of Jesus the savior during the 15thyear of Tiberius Caesar’s rule, and during the rule of two Jewish high priests, Annas and Caiaphas.
We believe that Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Baruch. Jesus does so by calling all people, people from the east and the west, into the Catholic Church to experience a particular type of liberation. The liberation that Jesus offers us is not necessarily political liberation. The liberation that Jesus offers us is not necessarily freedom from an oppressive worldly regime. Rather, Jesus offers a way to be peaceful, deeply joyful no matter what oppressive experience we are undergoing. He does so by being present to us as Emmanuel. In Hebrew, Emmanuel (עִמָּ֫נוּאֵ֫ל) literally means God – Elis with –im– us – nu(pronominal suffix).
Jesus became present to every human being when he as God, as the infinite Creator, as Emmanuel, as God with us, took on finite flesh. By so doing Jesus not only touched the flesh He assumed in Mary’s womb but also, in a mysterious way, as the infinite God touched the flesh of all human beings, past, present and future.
When we experience feelings of being oppressed like Baruch did and his people did under the oppression of the Babylonian Empire, may we reach out to Jesus who is with us and through communion with the Lord Jesus experience, what Benedict XVI, writes as “a deep interior security”. This security may not be expressed by, writes Benedict, “ ‘exterior’ happiness”but always will lessen our burden, give us meaning that Jesus provides, and hope that our experience of oppression will one day pass if we hold onto Jesus who promises to carry us through our suffering into his Resurrection, into eternal life.
An image that may help us is the security a sick baby feels when in the presence of his mother, when held by his mother close to her heart. The baby still is sick, still is suffering, but now, due to the closeness of his loving mother, feels comforted and secure, and, in a certain sense, deeply happy, despite his pain. During this Advent season, may we draw close to Jesus and there close to Jesus’ heart, to Jesus’ beating heart of love, feel secure and rest in the peace Jesus offers us.
Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], “Gerard van Honthorst – Adoration of the Shepherds (1622),”
Brant Pitre, “The Second Sunday of Advent (Year C),” catholicproductions.com.
Benedict XVI, Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI, ed. Peter John Cameron (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 296.