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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memorial 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 of John takes us to the beginning of Jesus’ public life and shows us the Baptist once again. One could say that the Baptist is the first person encountered while reading the fourth Gospel. He is a just and austere man who lives in the desert, away from the religious and political capital of Israel. Yet, many people come to him to receive a baptism of repentance and so be regenerated to a more peaceful life. They all hold him in high regard, to the point saying he is the Messiah, Elijah, or at least a great prophet. There was an extraordinary need for hope at that time. And is the need not as strong today, when we are all swept away by a life that often steals our smile and our serenity? We always need help, but even more so in a time of crisis like the one we are experiencing. But we should not forget that only Jesus saves, not anyone else. The temptation to look for saviours at a good price is dangerous, nor should we think of ourselves as saviours. The Baptist, a man of deep spirituality and wisdom, understood this well. Indeed, when the people began to tell him he was the “saviour,” he immediately denied it and insisted, “I am not the prophet...I am not the Messiah.” Of himself he said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” And what is a voice? Little more than nothing. Yet the words of the Baptist spoke were not uttered in vain; they struck those who listened to them. They flowed from an honest, just, and, most importantly, spiritual heart. He spoke words that came from a profound heart and so they reached the hearts of those who listened to them willingly. This was his strength. It was a weak force, but it could touch the hearts of those who listened because those words contained spiritual strength. John is the figure of the witnesses of the Gospel; indeed we could say that he is figure of the Church itself: a voice that points out Jesus to the people of his time with spiritual authority. John does not belong to himself. He is not (and does not want to be) at the centre of the scene. He points to someone else, the Lord. Likewise, the Church does not belong to herself and does not live for herself. It lives in order to lead people towards Jesus. All should focus on this aim. And so it is for every disciple, whether an ordained minister or layperson: we are all called to bring others to Jesus, not to ourselves. The disciple is not a star who attracts others to herself, but a believer who points out the Lord to others. This is the disciple’s vocation and her joy.

Prayer of the Christmas season