My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
While St. John the Baptist was in the womb, he heard Mary as she visited his mother, and the unborn Baptist leaped for joy over the voice of Mary and the presence of the unborn Jesus in her own womb. Our spiritual tradition calls this the first Eucharistic Adoration, namely, St. John the Baptist was worshipping the Son of God whose presence he knew although he couldn’t see him.
At a time when so many believers appear to have given into mediocrity, suspicion and fear, the zealous witness of St. John the Baptist pokes at us, provokes us into a greater love and deeper devotion to the demands of discipleship. During this season of Advent, St. John the Baptist compels us to repent, to forgive — that we might see the salvation of God. The Second Vatican Council Fathers echo the provocative words of St. John the Baptist, “The Lord himself renews his invitation to all the lay faithful to come closer to him every day, and with the recognition that what is his is also their own (Phil 2:5) they ought to associate themselves with him in his saving mission. Once again he sends them into every town and place where he himself is to come” (Christifideles Laici).
Reflecting on the life of St. John the Baptist, Pope Francis calls us to see the words and deeds, miracles and actions of God in us and around us so that we can fulfill our vocation and the mission given to each of us. He said the season of Advent “is given to us to welcome the Lord who comes to meet us, to verify our desire for God, and to look ahead and prepare for the return of Christ.” Like St. John the Baptist, the Holy Father also asks us to repent, to forgive, “in the noise of the world, does not let him or herself be overwhelmed by distraction or superficiality, but lives in a full and conscious way, with a concern directed above all to others.” With this attitude, Pope Francis notes, “we become aware of the tears and needs of others.”
Our repentance is directed toward the love of others by trying to counter the indifference and cruelty in the world. We are reminded to abandon the comfortable and compromised ways of living, stretch ourselves and to listen for God’s whisper to love as he loves us. How does repentance directed toward the love of others come alive for you? Might I suggest additions to your daily living to prepare the way of the Lord: praying — both privately and with your family — around dinner, upon awakening, in the car on the way to school or work, before bedtime; availing yourself of the Sacrament of Penance; participating in the celebration of Mass; offer acts of charity for those who are in need such as “buy one, get one” — when you purchase a gift for a family member, purchase another gift for a person in need or an elderly neighbor who is alone this season; check with Catholic Charities of Central Florida or your parish office for opportunities for volunteerism; visit someone you know who is ill or send him or her a hand-written greeting; take time with friends to share your love of God and invite them to participate with you in prayer or offering of charity; designate an hour to turn off all electronic devices and treasure each other as the sacred gift of God which you are. What other ways might you repent?
During this Advent season, may our love increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value.