What was it like, living in ancient Palestine?
The king was not a real Jew. The high priests had no faith. The Pharisees did not practice what they preached. The Romans ruled as careerist bureaucrats. You couldn’t pray in the Temple because the animal-traders made too much noise. You couldn’t save for the future because the taxmen gouged you. You couldn’t travel because the highways were crawling with bandits.
Dishonesty grew like a sickening weed everywhere, choking the life out of religion and the common life, leaving the nation on the brink of violent despair.
Then people began to hear about a man who lived down in the desert wilderness by the mouth of the Jordan River. He lived on a hillside that looked out on the brilliant sunrise from the quiet, holy east.
This man had no angle. He owed allegiance to no party. He had no designs on any advancement in this world. His life consisted solely in patiently waiting for all the prophecies of old to come true.
Is it any wonder that they came by the hundreds? Down the mountain from Jerusalem and Judea, down the river from Samaria, Galilee, Syria. Is it any wonder that people suffocating in a society canopied with craven selfishness came for a breath of John the Baptist’s fresh air?
He opened up the sky for them. He unlocked the hidden mystery of the sacred page. He made the faith of Abraham live. The work of God had not been exhausted by the many centuries of strife. No: it had all been a matter of careful divine preparation.
Make straight the paths of the Providence of God. Be cleansed for refreshment and renewal. A great day of truth, of justice, of peace and light—the day of Christ—is coming.