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Congregation for the Clergy: John the Baptizer, Sent by God to Show us the Way

By Congregation for the Clergy
December 12th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Lord Jesus is greater than the Baptist, who says he is not fit to even undo the Lord's sandal-strap.  Even though the Baptist 'was not the light', he was called from the very depths of his heart to 'bear witness to the light' and so became the most excellent witness ever sent to prepare the way of the Lord.

VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - John the Baptist is the figure at the centre of St John's Gospel account in this the third Sunday of Advent.

This man was, 'sent by God', to 'bear witness to the light'.  This 'light' is Jesus, the Son of God who is about to enter the world and to come among us.  He is the Eternal Word which illuminates all people, sent by the Father "so that He might dwell among men and tell them of the innermost being of God" (Dei Verbum, 3).

The Lord Jesus is greater than the Baptist, who says he is not fit to even undo the Lord's sandal-strap.  Even though the Baptist 'was not the light', he was called from the very depths of his heart to 'bear witness to the light' and so became the most excellent witness ever sent to prepare the way of the Lord.

"I am, as Isaiah prophesied, the voice of one that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord." (Cfr John 1: 20-23)

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness, is the voice of one breaking the silence." The great St Augustine asserts:  "Prepare the way for the Lord, he says, as though he were saying: "I speak out in order to lead him into your hearts, but he does not choose to come where I lead him unless you prepare the way for him."
 
What does prepare the way mean, if not "pray well"? What does prepare the way mean, if not "be humble in your thoughts"? We should take our lesson from John the Baptist. He is thought to be the Christ; he declares he is not what they think. He does not take advantage of their mistake to further his own glory.

If he had said, "I am the Christ," you can imagine how readily he would have been believed, since they believed he was the Christ even before he spoke. But he did not say it; he acknowledged what he was. He pointed out clearly who he was; he humbled himself.

He saw where his salvation lay. He understood that he was a lamp, and his fear was that it might be blown out by the wind of pride."  (St Augustine, Sermon 293,3)

Therefore, only Christ, the light of grace, brings the good news to everyone by announcing the year of the Lord's favour.  The Lord re-clothes humanity with the 'garments of salvation', and causes 'righteousness to break forth' (c.f. Isaiah 61: 10-11).

As we wait for the Lord to come, each Christian must be motivated by the spirit of prayer.  St Paul reminds us that we must 'pray without ceasing' so that we might be made perfect and holy and that our lives will be kept safe and blameless 'spirit, soul and body. for the coming of the Lord'. (1 Thessalonians 5:23)

We turn our gaze in this holy season with faith to the crib "in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Advent. Let us place our hand in hers and enter joyfully into this new time of grace that God gives as a gift to his Church for the good of all humanity.

Like Mary and with her maternal help, let us make ourselves docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, so that the God of peace may sanctify us totally, and the Church become a sign and instrument of hope for all men."  (Pope Benedict XVI, Celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent. 2

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