2nd Sunday of Advent, C18
In the reading of Scripture, you have to pay attention to the placement of words, phrases, and whole sections.
For instance in today’s Gospel Luke begins his account of John the Baptizer (and eventually Jesus) with a list of people who governed the Jewish people either civilly or religiously. Did you notice who they were or did your mind wander when Deacon John read their names and positions? Luke named them because they would show up later at the end of Jesus’s ministry when they would play important roles in his death. The seeds of the end are planted at the beginning.
Further in the reading from the prophet Baruch, did you notice at the very end how he switched the order of mercy and justice? Usually it is justice and mercy. In our court system there is a trial where justice is rendered followed by a plea of mercy at the sentencing if the person is found guilty. It sounds strange to hear and against our human logic that “God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory with his mercy and justice for company.” But the only way they could return from exile with joy was if God showed them mercy instead of justice. The same is true for us when we sin. God’s mercy is extended to us by the forgiveness of our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation before we are assigned a penance which in reality becomes an act of gratitude instead.
Finally, Paul prays for the Philippians that “your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, … .” (Repeat the last few words.) I think that phrase is in Paul’s heartfelt prayer is of great importance, something we something we might not appreciate in our hurried reading of Paul’s long sentences. What is of value? Working hard to ensure you have an inheritance to leave your children or having a little less but spending time with them? Being in rush to get to your vacation destination or stopping along the way for a picnic or when you spot something interesting? Putting off a visit to a relative thinking “we’ll get together soon”. The conclusion of the song “Cat’s in the Cradle” is one of the most poignant I’ve ever heard. “ To discern what is of value”.
Again, in the reading of Scripture, you have to pay attention to the placement of words, phrases, and whole sections. When you do, meditating on the word of God becomes that much richer.
 Baruch 5:9
 Phil. 1:9-10