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Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bishop Barron's Advent Reflection: The Return from Exile

Your daily Advent reflection...
Third Saturday in Advent
The Return from Exile
Sometimes, as we wait, we can feel like we are in exile. Exile is a huge theme in the minds of the Biblical authors because two great exiles practically define Israelite history: the exile in Egypt and the exile in Babylon. In both cases, God’s holy people, his specially chosen race, was enslaved by a foreign power.

The prophet Baruch, who was the secretary to the prophet Jeremiah, writes from Babylon, from the land of exile. At the time, Jerusalem, the holy city which, had been ravaged by the Babylonians and left abandoned, its temple and walls in ruins. With this in mind, Baruch tells the Israelites to “take off your robe of mourning and misery and put on the splendor of glory from God forever” (Baruch 5:1). With his prophetic eyes, he envisions the day when God would lead his people back home.

In light of Baruch’s prophecy and this long history of exile and expectation, we now turn to the Gospel of Luke. Luke begins by mentioning all of the major representatives of the powers oppressing Israel: Tiberius Caesar, the king of the world; Pontius Pilate, his local representative; Herod and his brother Philip, Roman puppets; Annas and Caiaphas, collaborators.

These were all of the people who were, in various ways and to varying degrees, oppressing Israel. But look how artfully this passage is composed: after mentioning these high and mighty figures, Luke tells us that the word of God came, not to them, but to this odd figure in the Judean desert, this strange and obscure prophet called John.

God’s ways are not our ways. God does not regard people and events the way we do. How strange that he would come to this seemingly insignificant figure!

And what is the message God brings to John? The deliverer is coming! The Messiah! Not just someone who will liberate Israel provisionally and politically, but someone who will liberate them from their ultimate exile, their alienation from the Lord.Israel is going to be definitively saved, brought home to God. So get ready to receive the Messiah.

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