The Prophets Series: Baruch and the Message of Hope and ConsolationSaturday 4th December 2021
By Father Michael Deas
We continue our journey through Advent by hearing from another prophet situated in exile. Prophets are sent by God to challenge but also to comfort his people. And the message that Baruch gives us this week is definitely intended to comfort.
The beginning of the book of Baruch gives us a big clue about when and to whom the message is proclaimed. It describes Jerusalem being burned with fire and being taken by the Chaldeans, and that this message was given 5 years after that. So, if we interpret that as the great destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC by the Babylonians, and the subsequent exile of the people of Israel to Babylon, we are talking about 582 BC and the Jewish people deep in exile in Babylon. This is a massively low point for this people. They have struggled to survive one oppressive empire after another, but they are finally totally destroyed as a nation along with their Temple, their centre of worship, and are either forced into exile or are scattered as refugees among foreign lands.
However, other details of the book of Baruch suggest that this may have been written down much later than that. The people who were scattered among these foreign lands became known as the Jews in the Diaspora, and it is thought that this message was given to support them as aliens in strange nations. But what this shows is that the message of the prophets can speak through generations. Baruch, as Jeremiah’s secretary, proclaiming God’s message to the people in exile in Babylon has power. Someone a few centuries later using Baruch’s name for authority and proclaiming God’s message to the Jews in the Diaspora who feel that they no longer belong to a nation has power. And the reader proclaiming this as God’s message in your local parish this Sunday has power.
The people in exile have lost everything. They feel like they have lost their identity as a nation. They have lost their temple, the centre of their worship and relationship with God. They have lost their leaders. And they may also feel like they have lost God. They may be asking, ‘Has God abandoned us? What do we do now?’
And we may be asking ourselves the same during this time of pandemic, or during any crisis in our lives. There will be some moment when we feel like we have lost something, if not everything. And we may question, ‘where is God in all this? Has he abandoned us? What happens now?’
‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’
The book of Baruch leads the people through a process. He gets them to admit that they are sinners and in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. And he then prays for their deliverance and salvation, before praising wisdom and its source in God. And then comes the message of consolation and comfort, part of which we hear this week. He says that God means to show their splendour to every nation under heaven. The key to this journey to salvation and consolation is ‘Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.’ God will flatten the high mountains, or, in other words, he will show them a safe and easier way.
This is the message for us too. In the midst of a disaster, I may be feeling dislocated, anxious or alone. But the season of Advent is a gift of time where I can reset and once again hear God’s message through his prophets, and prepare to welcome the light of Christ back into my life. When I allow Jesus to enter my life, I feel that peace that comes from his integrity, that honour that comes through his devotedness. Then I can see that God has flattened the high mountains for me by showing me the light in the darkness, the great reassurance that he is with me and that I have an eternal destiny with him.
That’s why we are given these prophets’ messages in Advent every year. We can identify with our brothers and sisters throughout human history and see that God is at work in their lives and that he is indeed at work in my life too.
One last point. The name Baruch means, ‘the blessed one,’ or ‘ the one who has been blessed.’ Can I hear God’s message this week and acknowledge that I am truly blessed to have been created by him out of love and that the light of Christ shines for me?
Click the link below to read more from our Advent Prophet Series: