Unlike a chronology in which events unfold linearly, we hear the Sunday lectionary Gospel stories symbolically through the liturgical year. This is so we might recognize our place and connection to the events of salvation history.
In last week’s Gospel, nearing the conclusion of his earthly ministry, Jesus prophesied the end of the days. Worldly systems would be turned upside-down so that the lowly were lifted up and the mighty brought low. Today, we go back to the prelude of Jesus’s ministry and hear a recounting of who those mighty ones were in the days of John the Baptist.More than a list of unusual names, Luke makes it clear that the coming of God’s reign will be a threat to those who exercise dominance over others. Click To Tweet
This is more than just situating John in time. It feels almost like a warning to these earthly powers whom Luke sets up in stark contrast to the lowly prophet in the wilderness. More than a list of unusual names, Luke makes it clear that the coming of God’s reign will be a threat to those who exercise dominance over others.
In this light, Isaiah’s words take on greater meaning for the earthly powers of John’s time and our own. If we desire to prepare the Lord’s way, then we will straighten up crooked systems that privilege the mighty. We will level uneven playing fields we force upon the powerless through unjust political, religious, and social structures. We will smooth the pitfalls and dismantle the obstacles along the path to God’s reign.