On Preparing the Scene for the Word

“The Word of God Is the Subject That Moves History”

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 6, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of Benedict XVI’s address before praying the midday Angelus today with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

On this second Sunday of Advent the liturgy proposes the Gospel passage in which St. Luke prepares the scene, so to speak, in which Jesus will open and begin his public mission (Luke 3:1-6). The evangelist shines the spotlight on John the Baptist, who was the precursor of the Messiah, and traces with great precision the coordinates in space and time of his preaching. Luke writes: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). Two things draw our attention. The first is the abundance of references to all the political and religious authorities of Palestine in 27-28 A.D. Evidently the evangelist wants to point out to the reader or listener that the Gospel is not a myth, but the account of a true story, that Jesus of Nazareth is a historical personage inserted in that precise context. The second element worthy of note is that, after this ample historical introduction, the subject becomes “the word of God,” presented as a force that descends from on high and comes to rest upon John the Baptist.

Tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of St. Ambrose, the great Bishop of Milan. I take from a comment of his on this evangelical text: “The Son of God,” he writes, “before gathering the Church together, acts first of all in his humble servant. Thus, St. Luke says well that the word of God descended upon John, the son of Zachariah, in the desert, because the Church did not have its beginning from men, but from the Word” (Expositio Evangelii Secundum Lucam Libris X Comprehensa, 2, 67). This, therefore is the meaning: The Word of God is the subject that moves history, inspires prophets, prepares the way for the Messiah, convokes the Church. Jesus himself is the divine Word that became flesh in Mary’s virginal womb: In him God is fully revealed, he has spoken and given us everything, opening the treasuries of his truth and of his mercy to us. St. Ambrose continues in his commentary: “So, the Word descended that the earth, which before had been a desert, would produce its fruits for us” (ibid.).

Dear friends, the most beautiful flower that has sprung up from the word of God is the Virgin Mary. She is the first fruits of the Church, garden of God on earth. But, while Mary is the Immaculate One — as we will celebrate her the day after tomorrow — the Church has constant need of purifying herself, because sin infects all her members. In the Church there is always a struggle taking place between the desert and the garden, between the sin that parches the earth and the grace that waters it so that it produces abundant fruits of holiness. Let us therefore pray to the Mother of the Lord that she will help us, in this Advent season, to “straighten” our ways, letting ourselves be guided by the word of God.

[After the Angelus the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Tomorrow there will open in Copenhagen the U.N. conference on climate change through which the international community intends to fight global warming. I hope that the work will help to identify actions respectful of creation and favorable to solidary development founded on the dignity of the human person and oriented toward the common good. The safeguarding of creation requires sober and responsible lifestyles that would benefit the poor and future generations. In this perspective, to guarantee the conferences complete success, I invite all persons of good will to respect the laws placed by God in nature and to rediscover the moral dimension of human life.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus. In today’s Gospel we hear the voice of John the Baptist calling out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” May this Advent season be for us a time of repentance so that, when Christ comes, we may welcome Him with joy, share in his wisdom and become one with him. Upon each of you and your loved ones at home, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

A good Sunday to all!

©Copyright 2009 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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