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The Everyday Prayer

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

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 11,11-15

'In truth I tell you, of all the children born to women, there has never been anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm. Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. Anyone who has ears should listen!


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

On several occasions during the Advent season, the Church points to John the Baptist as the one who prepares the way of the Lord. Jesus never spoke about anyone as much as he spoke about the Baptist. In the verses that precede this passage, Jesus presents John as the prophet who knows how to wait for the Lord and makes him an example for all believers. In effect, with his austere life, the Baptist has prepared himself for his encounter with God; he has not entrenched himself behind easy pride or the expected self-reliance. One could almost say that John did violence to himself in order to cultivate a heart that knew how to wait for the one sent by God. The Baptist became a spiritual man with deep interiority. And this required a struggle with himself, a struggle made of discipline, commitment, perseverance in prayer, detachment from wealth, obedience to the Lord, and a bond between his heart and God. It is this process of "violence" against one’s self that builds up the interior person. Forged by this interior discipline, John was able to recognize Jesus as soon as he saw him approaching by the Jordan. Afterwards, he tried to use his preaching to open a path in the hearts of the men and women of his generation so that they would recognize and welcome the Messiah who was by then present. This is why Jesus can say that John is "the greatest among those born of women," a unique brother sent to us to prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus as our saviour. Adding that the least of the kingdom is greater than John, Jesus urges his disciples to discover the greatness of the vocation that has been given to them, even though we often trample it with laziness and meanness. The Lord has placed extraordinary trust in his disciples, enough to make him say, "the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these" (Jn 14:12). What will we do with the great trust that the Lord has put in each of us? This is the question we are invited to ask ourselves as we draw near to Christmas.

Memory of the Church