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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of Saints Basil the Great (330-379), bishop of Caesarea and Father of monasticism in the East, and of Gregory Nazianzus (330-389), Doctor of the Church and Patriarch of Constantinople.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Glory to God in the highest
and peace on earth to the people he loves.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 1,19-28

This was the witness of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?'

He declared, he did not deny but declared, 'I am not the Christ.'

So they asked, 'Then are you Elijah?' He replied, 'I am not.' 'Are you the Prophet?' He answered, 'No.'

So they said to him, 'Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?'

So he said, 'I am, as Isaiah prophesied: A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord. Make his paths straight!'

Now those who had been sent were Pharisees,

and they put this question to him, 'Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the Prophet?'

John answered them, 'I baptise with water; but standing among you -- unknown to you-

is the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandal.'

This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel we heard today brings us to the beginning of Jesus’ public life and introduces us to John the Baptist. He is the first person that we meet in the fourth Gospel. A just and austere man, he lives in the desert, removed from the religious and political capital of Israel. And yet, many flock to him to receive a penitential baptism so as to be regenerated to a more serene life. Everybody esteems him, even to the extent of calling him the Messiah, Elijah, or some great prophet. There was an extraordinary need for hope at that time. Even today, we are overwhelmed by a hectic life that steals from us the ability to smile and to live serenely. Aren’t we in the same need for hope? We need the help of someone. But we must be advised that only Jesus, and not others, is able to save us. The Baptist understood this. In fact, when people thought that he was the "saviour," he scoffed and insisted in saying: "I am not the prophet, I am not the Messiah." To describe himself, he only says: "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’" We might ask, what does one voice matter? Not much. And yet, John the Baptist’s words are not vain: they come from a just heart. They are true words that reach the heart. This is his strength, a fragile strength that is able to touch the heart of whoever listens. John is a figure of the witnesses of the Gospel; we can say that he is a figure of the Church: a voice that calls out Jesus to men and women. John does not belong to himself. He is not (and does want to be) at the centre of attention. He points out the other, the Lord. Even the Church does not belong to itself and does not live for itself; however, it lives to lead people to Jesus. The same thing is also true for every disciple, whether as a minister or a simple believer: we are all called to bring others to Jesus, not towards ourselves. The disciples do not have leading roles; nor do they want to attract people to themselves; rather, they are believers who point out the Lord to others. This is both the disciples’ vocation and joy.

Prayer of the Christmas season