The Gospel of this second Sunday of Advent (Matthew 3:1-12) presents to us the figure of St. John the Baptist, who, according to a celebrated prophecy of Isaiah (cf. 40:3), went out into the desert of Judea and, with his preaching, called the people to covert and prepare for the imminent coming of the Messiah. St. Gregory the Great comments that the Baptist "preaches the right faith and good works … so that the power of grace penetrate, the light of the truth shine, the roads to God be made straight and that the words that are born in the soul after hearing the Word guide to the good" (Hom. in Evangelia, XX, 3, CCL 141, 155). The precursor of Jesus, situated between the Old and the New Covenants, is like a star that shines before the rising of the Sun, of Christ, of him, that is, upon whom -- according to Isaiah's prophecy -- "the Spirit of the Lord will come to rest, the a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord" (Isaiah 11:2).
In the time of Advent, we too are called to listen to God's voice, which resounds in the desert of the world through the sacred Scriptures, especially when they are preached with the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith, in fact, is fortified the more that it is illuminated by the divine Word, by "all that which," as the Apostle Paul reminds us, "was written previously … for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope" (Romans 15:4). The Virgin Mary is the model of listening: "As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives. Every Christian believer, St. Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God" (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Verbum Domini," No. 28).
Dear friends, "our salvation rests on a coming," Romano Guardini wrote ("La santa note: Dall'Avvento all'Epifania," Brescia 1994, p. 13). "The Savior came from the freedom of God … Thus the decision of faith consists … in welcoming him who draws near to us" (p. 14). "The Redeemer," he adds, "comes to each man: in his joys and anxieties, in his clear knowing, in his perplexities and temptations, in everything that constitutes the nature of his life" (p. 15).
Let us ask the Virgin Mary, in whose womb the Son of the Most High dwelt, and for whom on Wednesday, Dec. 8 we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to sustain us in this spiritual journey, to welcome the coming of the Lord with faith and with love.
[After reciting the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following appeal:]
In this Advent season in which we are called to nourish our expectation of the Lord and to welcome him in our midst, I invite you to pray for all the situations of violence, of intolerance, of suffering that there are in the world, so that the coming of Jesus brings consolation, reconciliation and peace. I think of the many difficult situations such as the continuing attacks in Iraq against Christians and Muslims, of the conflicts in Egypt in which there have been deaths and injuries, of the victims of traffickers and criminals such as the drama of the Eritrean hostages and the hostages of other nationalities in the desert of Sinai. The respect for the rights of all is the presupposition of civil coexistence. Our prayer to the Lord and our solidarity can bring hope to those who are suffering.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
[He then greeted those present in various languages. In English he said:]
I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for this Angelus prayer. The liturgy of the Second Sunday in Advent invites us to prepare our hearts for the great mystery of the incarnation. May Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, grant us his grace so that during this time of Advent we may grow ever more faithful to his unfailing love. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!