Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm: 126:1-6; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; and Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
I returned to faith and developed my relationship with God through Jesus in the 1970s when I both came into the Catholic Church and became involved in the Catholic charismatic renewal. I was in my early 20s.
The Vietnam War was looming, and there was talk of revolution. Some feared government reprisal as a result of their politics. The rest feared that those who threatened to (and did, in some cases) blow up buildings were much larger in numbers than they were.
It was also a time of great evangelism, both in Protestant evangelical circles and, through renewal movements, in the Catholic Church.
This week's Gospel brings the turmoil of those times to mind. It opens with a list of political figures who sought to repress religion, to force it to be expressed only in ways acceptable to the state. It was into this context that John the Baptist arose proclaiming a baptism of repentance, telling everyone, "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths."
That is what the Year of Faith is telling us to do in our lives today. Pope Benedict XVI and the church are calling us gently but definitively to renew our faith, to deepen our personal relationships with Jesus and our prayer lives, as well as our understanding of and participation in the sacraments.
Then, from that more solid base, we are asked to turn to new means of evangelization, including social media but not neglecting face-to-face conversations with those who we know need the love of Jesus and the fellowship and structured support of the church.
The church asks this of us in the same spirit of encouragement we find in today's passage from Philippians, where Paul says his prayer for that community is "that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ."
We've been entrusted with a great gift; we live in difficult times; God's grace will abound.