Thousands of pilgrims wrapped in scarves and hats withstood a gelid northerly wind that swept St Peter’s Square Sunday to pray the midday Angelus prayer with Pope Benedict XVI, who urged them to prepare their hearts and lives for the coming of the Lord. Emer McCarthy reports Listen:
On the second Sunday of Advent the Pope dwelt on the figure of John the Baptist, presented in Luke’s Gospel. He spoke of him as ‘the voice’ crying out in the desert of today’s consumerist society, “where we seek joy in things”. Instead the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so that Christmas is not only experienced as an outward celebration, but as the feast of the Son of God who came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.
“Our aim today” he continued “is to listen to that voice, to give space and welcome Jesus, the Word that saves us, to our hearts”.
In comments in French Pope Benedict said “Advent invites us to go out to meet the Lord, and therefore we set off on a journey. This reality is very familiar to people forced to leave their region, for various reasons, including war or poverty. Migrants are aware of the precarious nature of their situation and often encounter little understanding. May they be welcomed and have a dignified life! In preparation for Christmas time, may a joyous and fraternal solidarity come to aid their needs and support their hopes! Do not forget that every Christian is en route to his or her true home: Heaven. Christ is the only way!”
Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Angelus reflections
Dear brothers and sisters!
In the season of Advent, the liturgy particularly emphasizes two figures who prepare the coming of the Messiah, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. Today St. Luke presents us with the latter, and does so with characteristics that differ from the other Evangelists. "All four Gospels place the figure of John the Baptist at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, as his precursor. St. Luke has further moved the connection between the two figures and their respective missions ... Already in their conception and birth, Jesus and John are brought into relation with each other "(The Infancy of Jesus, 23). This setting helps to understand that John, as the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, both of priestly families, is not only the last of the prophets, but also represents the whole priesthood of the Old Covenant and therefore prepares men to spiritual worship of the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus (cf. ibid. 27-28). Luke also dispels a mythical reading that is often made of the Gospels and historically contextualizes the life of John the Baptist: "In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor ... during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas" (Lk 3, 1-2). Within this historical framework lies the true great event, the birth of Christ, which his contemporaries will not even notice. By God the great men of history form the backdrop to small!
John the Baptist is defined as the "voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths" (Lk 3:4). The voice proclaims the word, but in this case the Word of God, as it comes down to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness (cf. Lk 3:2). Thus he plays an important role, but always in relation to Christ. St. Augustine says: "John is the voice. Instead of the Lord says: "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1). John is the voice that passes away, Christ is the eternal Word who was in the beginning. If you take the word away from the voice, what is left? A faint sound. The voice without the word strikes the hearing, but does not build up the heart"(Sermon 293, 3). Our aim today is to listen to that voice, to give space and welcome Jesus, the Word that saves us, to our hearts. In this time of Advent, let us prepare to see, with the eyes of faith, God's salvation in the humble stable in Bethlehem (cf. Lk 3:6). In a consumerist society, where we seek joy in things, the Baptist teaches us to live in an essential way, so that Christmas is not only experienced as an outward party, but as the feast of the Son of God who came to bring peace, life and true joy to people.
We entrust our journey towards the Lord to the maternal intercession of Mary, Virgin of Advent, so we may be ready to welcome, into our hearts and life, Emmanuel, God-with-us.
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!