POPE BENEDICT XVI ON THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR C
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Advent Year C – “Gaudete“, 16 December 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Gospel for this Sunday of Advent presents once again the figure of John the Baptist, and it depicts him while he is speaking to the people who come to him at the River Jordan to be baptized. Since John, with incisive words, urges them all to prepare themselves for the Messiah’s coming, some ask him, “What then shall we do?” (Lk 3:10, 12, 14). These exchanges are very interesting and prove to be of great timeliness.
The first answer is addressed to the crowd in general. The Baptist says, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (v. 11). Here we can see a criterion of justice, motivated by charity. Justice requires that the imbalance between the one who has more than enough and the one who lacks the necessary be overcome; charity prompts us to be attentive to others and to meet their needs, instead of seeking justification to defend one’s own interests. Justice and charity are not in opposition, but are both necessary and complete each other. “Love — caritas — will always prove necessary, even in the most just society”, because “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, n. 28).
Then we see the second answer, which is directed at some “publicans“, that is, tax-collectors on behalf of the Romans. The publicans were already despised for this, and also because they often made the most of their position to steal. The Baptist does not ask them to change their profession, but to exact no more than what has been established (cf. v. 13). The prophet, in the name of God, does not demand exceptional acts, but first and foremost the just fulfilment of one’s duty. The first step towards eternal life is always the observance of the Commandments; in this case, the seventh one: You shall not steal (cf Ex. 20:15).
The third reply concerns the soldiers, another class that enjoyed a certain authority, and was thus tempted to abuse it. John says to the soldiers: “Rob no one by violence, and be content with your wages” (v. 14). Here too the conversation begins with honesty and with respect for others: an instruction that applies to everyone, especially for those with greater responsibility.
On considering this dialogue as a whole, we are struck by the great concreteness of John’s words: since God will judge us according to our works, it is there, in our behaviour, that we must show that we are doing his will. For this very reason, the Baptist’s instructions are ever timely: even in our very complex world, things would go much better if each person observed these rules of conduct. Therefore let us pray to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that he may help us to prepare ourselves for Christmas, bearing the good fruits of repentance (cf. Lk 3:8).
Saint Peter’s Square
3rd Sunday of Advent Year C – “Gaudete”, 13 December 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have now reached the Third Sunday of Advent. Today in the liturgy the Apostle Paul’s invitation rings out: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice…. The Lord is at hand!” (Phil 4: 4-5). While Mother Church accompanies us towards Holy Christmas she helps us rediscover the meaning and taste of Christian joy, so different from that of the world. On this Sunday, according to a beautiful tradition, the children of Rome come to have the Pope bless the Baby Jesus figurines that they will put in their cribs. And in fact, I see here in St Peter’s Square a great number of children and young people, together with their parents, teachers and catechists. Dear friends, I greet you all with deep affection and thank you for coming. It gives me great joy to know that the custom of creating a crib scene has been preserved in your families. Yet it is not enough to repeat a traditional gesture, however important it may be. It is necessary to seek to live in the reality of daily life that the crib represents, namely, the love of Christ, his humility, his poverty. This is what St Francis did at Greccio: he recreated a live presentation of the nativity scene in order to contemplate and worship it, but above all to be better able to put into practice the message of the Son of God who for love of us emptied himself completely and made himself a tiny child.
The blessing of the “Bambinelli” [Baby Jesus figurines] as they are called in Rome, reminds us that the crib is a school of life where we can learn the secret of true joy. This does not consist in having many things but in feeling loved by the Lord, in giving oneself as a gift for others and in loving one another. Let us look at the crib. Our Lady and St Joseph do not seem to be a very fortunate family; their first child was born in the midst of great hardship; yet they are full of deep joy, because they love each other, they help each other and, especially, they are certain that God, who made himself present in the little Jesus, is at work in their story. And the shepherds? What did they have to rejoice about? That Newborn Infant was not to change their condition of poverty and marginalization. But faith helped them recognize the “babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” as a “sign” of the fulfilment of God’s promises for all human beings, “with whom he is pleased” (Lk 2: 12, 14).
This, dear friends, is what true joy consists in: it is feeling that our personal and community existence has been visited and filled by a great mystery, the mystery of God’s love. In order to rejoice we do not need things alone, but love and truth: we need a close God who warms our hearts and responds to our deepest expectations. This God is manifested in Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Therefore that “Bambinello” which we place in a stable or a grotto is the centre of all things, the heart of the world. Let us pray that every person, like the Virgin Mary, may accept as the centre of his or her life the God who made himself a Child, the source of true joy.
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