Posté par diaconos le 24 novembre 2021


Prepare the way of the Lord

John the Baptist is an important man in Christianity and Islam. Historically, his existence is attested by a passage in Flavius Josephus, and he was a Jewish preacher at the time of Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel according to John locates the activity of the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan and in Bethany beyond the Jordan. Jesus lived there for a time in his entourage and recruited his first apostles. The Synoptic Gospels synchronise the beginning of Jesus’ activity with the imprisonment of John. The audience of this apocalyptic prophet grew steadily, to the point of provoking the reaction of Herod Antipas who, seeing him gather his followers, feared that he would provoke a revolt.

In the Synoptic Gospels, John the Baptist was put to death because he criticised Antipas’ marriage to Herodias. In Christianity, John the Baptist is the prophet who announced the coming of Jesus of Nazareth. He baptised him on the banks of the River Jordan, leaving some of his disciples to join him. A forerunner of the Messiah, he is presented in the Synoptics as sharing many characteristics with the prophet Elijah. Roman Catholicism made him a saint and dedicated two feasts to him: 24 June, commemorating his birth, fixed six months before Christmas to conform to the infancy narrative in the Gospel according to Luke, and 29 August, celebrating the memory of his decapitation or beheading.

The Mandanese religion makes him its main prophet. He is considered by Islam to be a prophet descended from ‘Imrān. The character of John the Baptist appears fortuitously in the eighteenth book of the Jewish Antiquities, which refers to a war between King Aretas IV of Petra (king of the Nabataeans) and Herod Antipas that resulted from a succession dispute after the death of Philip the Tetrarch in 33-34. According to Flavius Josephus, John the Baptist was executed for political reasons: a popular figure, John overshadowed Herod Antipas and could use his influence on the crowd to provoke a revolt against the ruling power: For Peter Geoltrain, this brief account places the movement of John the Baptist in history, that of revolts provoked by rebels, such as Judas the Galilean at the death of Herod the Great (father of Herod Antipas and Philip the Tetrarch), or by enlightened prophets who aroused crowds expecting wonders, or even by obscure pretenders to kingship.

The Gospel of John testifies that there was rivalry between the movement of Jesus’ disciples and the Baptists54 who did not recognise him as the Messiah when it was written in the years 90-100. « Multiple sources attest that groups venerating the Baptist and considering him, for some, as the Messiah, persisted and continued the controversy: who, Jesus or John, is the greater? 54 « The Mandinese community, composed of Baptists, was the first to be called to the forefront of the debate. The Mandean community, composed of followers of John the Baptist, saw him as the enemy of Jesus Christ.

From the Gospel according to Luke

25 « There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars. On earth, the nations will be distressed and confused by the noise of the sea and the waves. 26 Men will die of fear as they wait for what will happen to the world, because the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then the Son of Man will be seen coming in a cloud, with power and great glory. 28 When these events begin, straighten up and raise your heads, for your redemption is coming. 28 When these events begin, straighten up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is coming ».

35 Like a net; indeed, it will fall on all the inhabitants of the whole earth. 36 Stay awake and pray at all times; so you will have the strength to escape all that is to come and to stand before the Son of Man ». 37 He spent his days in the Temple teaching, but his nights he went out into the open air to the place called the Mount of Olives.38 And all the people came to him in the Temple at dawn to hear him. (Lk 21, 25-28.34-36)

The Coming of the Son of Man

After the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled, those dreaded phenomena appeared in all nature, precursors of the coming of the Son of Man. Luke has described them even more strikingly than Matthew and Mark; he has given their terrible effects: « The distress of the nations who know not what to do, the consequence and emblem of the cosmic upheavals; the souls of men are terrified at the approach of the judgments of God. The event which has caused the terror of the world has been for the people of God the object of ineffable joy.

On high, these eyes lowered to the earth, these heads bowed under the weight of affliction; behold deliverance! Instead of this encouraging exhortation, peculiar to Luke, Matthew and Mark mention the sending of God’s angels to gather the elect scattered all over the earth. From these great future events, Jesus turned the thoughts of the disciples to themselves and to the moral and religious life that prepared them. Two traps had been prepared for them: the carnal pleasures that weigh down the heart and the worries of life.

On that day, the great day of Jesus’ coming, which was announced and which is represented in Scripture as an object of universal surprise, Jesus addressed these words to his disciples of all times. He wanted them to wait for that day in holy watchfulness, as if he might surprise them at any moment; hence the ignorance in which Jesus left them as to the hour of his coming. The early Church lived in expectation of Christ’s imminent return, and this expectation remains the true disposition of the Christian, the more so as he is uncertain of the hour of his death.

 In the days when Jesus was teaching in the temple, he withdrew at night with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, either to find recollection and rest, or because he was no longer safe in the city, where his enemies, who had already decided on his death, were spying on him or trying to catch him.

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian sites

◊ The Augustinians : click here to read the paper →  First Sunday of Advent – Year C

◊Loyola Press : click here to read the paper  →  First Sunday of Advent, Cycle C

Bishop Tim Smith (NC Synod)  First Sunday of Advent — Year C

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