Meditation of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: Third Sunday of Advent, Year C, 2021

Published: December 10 Fri, 2021

Meditation of Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa: Third Sunday of Advent, Year C, 2021 Available in the following languages:

December 12, 2021

Third Sunday of Advent, Year C

This third Sunday of Advent also lets us meet the figure of John the Baptist.

His preaching, on the banks of the Jordan, arouses in many a desire for conversion (Lk 3:10-14), and in hearts, the question arises: what must one do to have a good life? What can I do, for my life?

People of the most diverse categories ask this question of themselves: in each one, in his status, in his situation, a new desire for life is born; and the answer will be different, appropriate to each one.

If the crowds (Lk 3:10), the tax collectors (Lk 3:12), the soldiers (Lk 3:14) ask it, and see the amazement of everyone, realizing that there is salvation for them too. No one is excluded, referring to what the prophet Isaiah says in the quotation we heard in the Gospel last Sunday: “every man will see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:6). It was precisely this Word descended on John, who in the desert shouts a pardon given to everyone.

The answers the Baptist gives to these questions have, in common, meeting the brother: “Stop collecting more than is prescribed” (Lk 3:13) “Do not practice extortion and do not falsely accuse anyone…” (Lk 3:14 ). In short, one is asked to straighten the paths that lead to the other, to eliminate injustice, not to do evil, not to use the other for their interests. We are asked to share what we have, sharing a part with who have less. That would seem the most obvious thing.

In other words, the Baptist says conversion does not take place ritually; sacrifices, temple offerings, pilgrimages are not enough. The journey to be made is that which reaches out to the other, starting from where one is. That is the place where the Lord comes, the way that He goes, reaching the life of persons.

When this happens, the prophetic vision of the world that Isaiah had glimpsed begins to come true, through which the world would have developed through a complete transformation: everything that impeded the encounter between men and between men with God (mountains or valleys or winding ways), would have been eliminated, so that the encounter could happen.

Because if God comes, what happens is that men find themselves brothers, a new style of relationship is born.

In the second part of the passage read today (Lk 3:15-18), the evangelist Luke emphasizes another fruit of John’s preaching, expectation: “For the people were waiting” (Lk 3:15).

Therefore, John’s task is not only to help the various categories of people to live in peace with each other. That would already be much. In reality, there is much more: John arouses hope where all hope has faded or perhaps even vanished. In a context where people were not waiting for anything and had resigned themselves to live only in the present, under the weight of injustice and fatigue, a man who lets God’s Word happen in him can awaken expectation for something else. He can recall that we are not made only for this earth, that man lives in the encounter with God.

For many, this could stop at the figure of John: “concerning John, they wondered in their hearts if he were not the Christ” (Lk 3:15). John’s answer, instead, goes further and puts hope in the hearts of the people. The Messiah, when He comes, will be lavish, excessive, and will overcome every possible expectation of the human spirit. Compared to Him, John is nobody, and this is recognized (Lk 3:16).

And this will be so true, the Messiah will be so extravagant, as to make it difficult for John himself to recognize Him. John will experience this drama of not being able to resolve the discrepancy, the difference between what was expected and the Jesus who is before them: “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask you: “Are you the one who has to come or have we to wait for another?” (Lk 7:20, cf Mt 11:3).

We must always be ready for this, not only because we do not know the day nor the hour, but also – and perhaps more so – because what will be given will surpass much more than what we expect, and it will be about loving this gift letting it exceed our hopes, allowing it take us further, where we did not think to go.

Because a hope, to be such, cannot be except the hope of the infinite, of eternity.