Dear brothers and sisters!
In the season of Advent that liturgy brings to the fore, in a special way, 2 figures that prepare the way of the Messiah: the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. Today St. Luke presents the latter to us, and he does so in a way that is different from the other evangelists. “All 4 of the Gospels place the figure of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus activity and they present him as his precursor. St. Luke moves the connection between the 2 figures and their respective missions back ... Already in conception and birth, Jesus and John are placed in relationship to each other” (“Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives” [Italian ed.], 23). This perspective helps us to understand that John, insofar as he is the son of Zachariah and Elizabeth, both of whom are of priestly families, is not only the last of the prophets, but also represents the whole priesthood of the Old Covenant and thus prepares men for the spiritual worship of the New Covenant, inaugurated by Jesus (cf. ibid., 27-28). Moreover, Luke dissolves every mythological reading that is often applied to the Gospels by speaking of the historical context of John’s life – “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea ... under the high priests Annas and Caiphas” (Luke 3:1-2). Within this historical context there occurs the truly great event of history, the birth of Christ, which is not noted by others at that time. For God, the great ones of history are the frame for the little ones!
John the Baptist defines himself as “the voice of one who calls out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths’” (Luke 3:4). The voice proclaims the word, but in this case the Word of God precedes, insofar as it descends upon John, the son of Zachariah, in the desert (cf. Luke 3:2). He therefore has a great role to play, but always in function of Christ. St. Augustine comments: “John is the voice. Of the Lord however it is said: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ (John 1:1). John is the voice that passes, Christ is the eternal Word that was in the beginning. If the word is taken from the voice, what does it have left? A vague sound. The voice without a word affects our hearing but it does not nourish the heart” (Sermon 293, 3: PL 38, 1328). We have the task today of listening to that voice to grant space and welcome in our heart to Jesus, the Word that saves. In this season of Advent, let us prepare to see, with the eyes of faith, God’s salvation in the humble grotto of Bethlehem (cf. Luke 3:6). In a consumer society in which we are tempted to find our joy in things, the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so that Christmas is lived not only as an external celebration but as the celebration of the Son of God who has come to bring men peace, life and true joy.
To the maternal intercession of Mary, the Virgin of Advent, we entrust our path to the Lord who is coming so that we are ready to welcome Emmanuel, God-with-us, in our heart and in our entire life.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those who were present in different languages. In English he said:]
I would now like to offer a word of greeting to all the English-speaking visitors present at this Angelus prayer. In today’s Gospel John the Baptist reminds us of the need for repentance and purification as we prepare a way for the Lord and await in hope his coming in glory. May God abundantly bless you and your loved ones!
[Concluding in Italian, he said:]
I wish you all a good Sunday, a good week. Happy Advent. Have a good Sunday everyone. Thank you!