First Reading Commentary
Baruch was a disciple and secretary of the prophet Jeremiah and shared in the prophet's labors and sufferings. The ancient Fathers actually considered this book to be a part of the prophecy of Jeremiah. It is Saint Jerome who has always testified that many things in the prophecies of Baruch dealt with the end times and the glorious return of Jesus Christ. At the time this was written it was a message of hope for captive Israel as Jerusalem is seen as the promised cream-of-the-crop safe haven for all exiles.
When reading this with prophetic eyes, Jerusalem represents the entire people of God whose hope is in Jesus Christ. Lofty mountains made low and gorges filled to level ground are images of promised comfort, peace and security in what can now be considered difficult and troubling times.
This Reading offers assurances that our Lord is leading us in joy by the light of His glory and we will advance in His glory. These are the kinds of messages that the Christian soul must trust in, take hold of and never let go of because the enemy seeks to destroy hope.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul uses the word "partnership"; the Latin translates into "fellowship." In his letters Paul used this type of language occasionally and it is believed to have a twofold meaning. The first seems most evident in that he is referring to those who accept his message and hence share in the graces of Christ. The second meaning refers to almsgiving and the support of Paul's ministry. Both meanings may very well apply in this Reading.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value." This requires a healthy spiritual life as discerning what is of value has nothing to do with temporal goods. Discernment is needed when circumstances occur whereby determining what is right and what is wrong is not vividly clear. Living a moral life and spending time with our Lord in prayer keeps us close to Him and is immensely helpful in the process of discernment. Staying close to Jesus is, as Saint Paul says, to be filled with the fruit of righteousness.
This weekend’s Gospel mentions the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas. For historical clarity, there was actually only one high priest at a time and Caiaphas held this office the entire time that Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.
Here we see John, the son of Zechariah, chosen to be the one who would fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah. When Isaiah first revealed this prophecy, he was referring to the Jews being freed from Babylonian captivity. As far as the coming of the Messiah, it was believed that it would be Elijah who would come and be the one chosen to prepare the way of the Lord. But it was John raised up in the spirit of Elijah who was chosen.
It's important to note that John's baptism was not for the remission of sins. John preached for repentance and a change of heart and his baptism was merely a ceremony to signify an acceptance of what he preached. It is the baptism ordained by Christ that washes away sin.
John's proclamation of the coming of the Messiah also offers something new: "All flesh shall see the salvation of God." Not only would the Messiah achieve salvation, but His salvation would not be limited to the boundaries of Israel; instead it would be available to everyone. This must have been shocking news to the hearers of this message.
God chose John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus Christ; but Christ will come again and the way of the Second Coming must also be prepared and God has left that responsibility not just to one person but to all disciples of Christ in the spirit of evangelization.