Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, During this month of December, the month dedicated to the and the Infancy of Jesus, let us pray for the grace our hearts need to be prepare for the gifts of grace our Lord wills to give each of us! This Sunday we celebrate the 2nd Sunday of Advent. I share with you a reflection on St. John the Baptist. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: ―2nd Sunday of Advent: The Precursor. Prepare the way of the Lord. The vocation of John the Baptist. An Advent figure. Behold, people of Sion, the Lord will come to save the nations. The Lord in His glory will make His voice heard and fill your hearts with joy. (Entrance Antiphon of the Holy Mass, cf. Is. 30:19, 30) Behold, the Lord will come… The Savior is about to arrive and nobody notices anything. The world goes on as usual, completely oblivious. Only Mary knows - and Joseph who has been told by the angel. The world is in darkness. Christ is still in Mary‘s womb. And there are the Jews, still arguing about the Messiah, without any idea that He is so near... Few people are expecting the Consolation of Israel: Simeon, Anna… We are in Advent, a time of waiting. During this liturgical period the Church proposes the figure of John the Baptist for our meditation. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he spoke of: The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. (Matt. 3:3) The Messiah‘s coming was preceded by prophets who announced His arrival from afar, like heralds who announce the arrival of a great king. John appears as the dividing line between the two Testaments, the Old and the New. Our Lord Himself teaches something about John when He talks about ‘the law and the prophets down to John the Baptist’. He is the personification of antiquity and the announcement of new times. As representing antiquity, he is born to elderly parents. As one who is a harbinger of new times, he shows that he has been a prophet from his mother’s womb. He has not yet been born when, at our Lady’s arrival, he leaps for joy inside his mother. (cf. Luke 1:76-77) John is called ‘the prophet of the Most high’, because his mission is ‘to go before the Lord to prepare His ways, teaching the knowledge of salvation to His people’. (St. Augustine, Sermon 293, 2) The whole of John‘s life is determined by this mission, even from his mother‘s womb. This is to be his vocation. His whole purpose will be to prepare, for Jesus, a people capable of receiving the Kingdom of God. At the same time he is to give public testimony of Him. John will not seek personal fulfillment through his work but has come to prepare a perfect people for the Lord. He will not do it because it appeals to him, but because it was for this very purpose he was conceived. This is what all apostolate is about: forgetting oneself and fostering a true concern for others. John was to carry out his task to the full, even to the extent of giving up his life in the fulfillment of his vocation. Many came to know Jesus through John the Baptist‘s apostolic work. It was through an express indication of his that the first disciples followed Jesus. And many others were inwardly prepared thanks to his preaching. One‘s vocation embraces one‘s whole life, and our whole being works towards fulfillment of the Divine Mission. God makes the conversion of many children of Israel depend on John‘s future response. In his own place and circumstances, each man has a God-given vocation. The Divine Will desires many other things that depend on the fulfillment of that vocation. Many great things depend - don’t forget it - on whether you and I live our lives as God wants. (J. Escriva, The Way, 755) Do we bring the people around us closer to God? Do we give good example in the way we carry out our work, in our family circle, in our social relations? Do we speak about God to our colleagues or fellow-students? John’s humility. This virtue necessary for apostolate. Whilst being fully conscious of the mission which has been entrusted to him, John know that before Christ he is not even worthy to carry His sandals (cf. Matt. 3:11), which was what the least of the servants used to do for their master; anybody could do that task. The Baptist does not hesitate to proclaim that he is of no importance compared with Jesus. He does not even identify himself according to his priestly parentage. He does not say, ‗I am John, son of Zachary of the priestly tribe of…‘ On the contrary, when they ask him, Who are you?, John says, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. He is no more than that - the voice. He is only the voice that announces Jesus. That is his mission, his life, his personality. His whole being is defined by Jesus, as should be the case in our own lives, in the life of any Christian. What is important in our lives is Jesus. As Christ gradually manifests Himself, John seeks to take second place, to disappear. His best disciples will be those who take up his indication to follow the Master at the beginning of His public life. This is the Lamb of God he says to John and Andrew, pointing to Jesus Who is passing by. With great refinement he detached himself from his followers, so that they should go after Christ. John persevered in sanctity, because he remained humble of heart. (St. Gregory the Great, Treatise on St. Luke’s Gospel, 20, 5) That is why he also merited that wonderful praise of Our Lord‘s, Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist.(Matt. 11:11) Today, the Precursor still points to the path we have to follow. In our personal apostolate - when we prepare others to meet Christ – we must try not to make ourselves the center of attraction. What is important is that Christ should be announced, known and
loved. Only He has the words of eternal life. Only in Him do we find salvation. John‘s attitude is an energetic warning against disordered self-love, which is always urging us to put ourselves unduly in the foreground. A desire to draw attention to oneself would leave no room for Jesus.
God also asks us to live without ostentation, without wanting to be heroes. He wants us to lead simple, ordinary lives, trying to do good to everyone and carrying out our duties honestly. Without humility we could not bring our friends closer to God. Our life would then become empty. Our role as witnesses and precursors. Apostolate with the people around us. We are not only precursors, however; we are also witnesses to Christ. Together with the grace of Baptism and Confirmation, we have received the honorable duty of making our Faith in Christ known through our words and our deeds. In order to enable us to carry out this mission, we receive frequently, even daily, the Divine Food of the Body of Christ. His priests lavish sacramental grace on us and instruct us with the teaching of the Divine Word. All that has been given to us is so much greater than John himself had, that Jesus could say: The least in the Kingdom of God is greater than John. However, what a difference! Jesus is just about to arrive, and John‘s whole reason for living is to be the Precursor. We are witnesses of what He came to do; but what sort of witnesses are we? What is our Christian testimony like amongst our colleagues and our families? Is it forceful enough to convince those who do not yet believe in Jesus? Those who do not love Him? Those who have mistaken ideas about Him? Is our life a proof, or does it at least point to the likelihood of the Truth of Christianity? These questions could help us to live this Advent, so that it is not devoid of apostolic meaning. Behold the Lord will come… John knows that God is preparing something very great, something for which he is to be the instrument; and he himself points in the direction that the Holy Spirit shows him. We know much more now about what it was that God had in mind for humanity. We know Christ and His Church, we have the Sacraments. The doctrine of salvation has been perfectly marked out for us… We know that the world needs Christ to reign, we know that the happiness and salvation of all mankind depend on Him. We have Christ Himself; the same Christ whom John the Baptist knew and announced. We are witnesses and precursors. We have to bear witness and at the same time we have to show others the way. Our responsibility is great, because to be Christ’s witnesses implies first and foremost that we should try to live our lives according to His doctrine, that we should struggle to make our actions remind others of Jesus and His most lovable personality. We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us: This man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is willing to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love. (J. Escriva, Christ Is Passing By, 122) Perhaps, in many cases, today‘s world does not await anything at all. Or it waits facing in a direction from which nobody will come. Many people have thrown themselves heart and soul into possessing material things as if these were their last end. But their hearts will never be satisfied with these things. We have to show the way to such people and to everyone. You know, says St. Augustine, what each one of you must do in his own home, with his friend, his neighbor, his servant, his superior, his subordinate. You also know the way in which God provides the opportunity, and the way He opens the door with His Word. Do not be content, then, to live at peace with yourselves until you have won them all for Christ, for you have been won for Christ. (St. Augustine, Treatise on St. John’s Gospel, 10, 9) Our family, friends, workmates, those people we come in contact with frequently, should be the first to benefit from our love for God. With our example and our prayer we should reach even people we do not have the chance to talk to. Our great joy will be that of having brought to Jesus, as John the Baptist did, many who were far away or indifferent. We should never forget that it is God‘s grace, and not our human strength, that can move souls towards Jesus. As nobody can give what he does not have, the effort to grow in our interior life becomes more urgent, so that all those we meet and pass on the road can be infected by our superabundant love for God. The Queen of Apostles will increase our longing and our effort to bring souls to her Son in the certainty that no effort is in vain in the sight of God.‖ (From In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, St. Joseph, St. Columbkill, and all the Holy Angels, may God grant us the grace to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord at Christmas! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel