Memory of the Church

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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

In this time of Advent, the Church presents John the Baptist as the one who prepares the way of the Lord. Jesus never spoke of anyone as much as he spoke of John the Baptist. In the preceding verses, Jesus introduces him as the prophet who knows how to wait for the Lord and points to him as an example believer (2-10). With his austere life, John had first and foremost prepared himself for the encounter with God: he fought with himself in order to allow the religious person to grow in his heart, the one who knows he must wait for the one sent by the Lord as the Messiah. He has become a spiritual person, a believer who lets himself be guided by the Spirit of God and not himself or his own traditions. This has all required a struggle with himself, made up of discipline, commitment, perseverance in prayer, detachment from wealth, obedience to God, and a bond between his heart and God. It is this process of "violence" against oneself that builds up the interior person. After having forged himself with this spiritual discipline, John was able to recognize Jesus as soon as he saw him approach. And then, with his preaching, he tried to find a way into the hearts of the men and women of his generation so that they would recognize and welcome the Messiah who was already among them. This is why Jesus proclaimed that there is "no one greater born of women," that is, that John is a unique brother sent to us so we might prepare our hearts to welcome Jesus as the Saviour. By saying that the least in the kingdom is greater than John, Jesus is encouraging his disciples to discover the grandeur of the vocation they have received, and which we too sometimes ignore. The Lord had such extraordinary faith in his disciples that he told them, "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). We must consider this question: what do we do with the faith that the Lord has in each one of us? It is a question that should envelop us more closely in this time of preparation for Jesus' birth.