Just as the soldiers and tax collectors asked John the Baptist, we must also ask, "What must I do?"
Before leading the midday Angelus on December 16, Pope Francis reflected on the Third Sunday of Advent and the invitation to joy, saying that a “spark of happiness” was lit in Nazareth.
The Angel Gabriel’s words to Mary at the Annunciation are an echo of the Prophet Zephaniah’s call to rejoice, he said.
What does the archangel Gabriel say? … “Rejoice,” he tells the Madonna. In a remote village in Galilee, in the heart of a young woman unknown to the world, God ignites the spark of happiness for the whole world.
Francis noted how in the First Reading, the inhabitants of the holy city are called to rejoice because the Lord has revoked His condemnation.
God has forgiven, He did not want to punish! As a consequence there is no longer any reason for sadness … there is no longer any reason for discouragement, but everything leads to a joyful gratitude to God, Who always wants to redeem and save those He loves. And the love of the Lord for His people is incessant, comparable to the tenderness of a father for his children, of the bridegroom for his bride.
The Holy Father said that the same invitation is made to us, to the Church. We are invited, “Rejoice, small Christian community, poor and humble but beautiful in my eyes because you ardently desire my Kingdom, you are hungry and thirsty for justice; patiently weave the fabric of peace; do not pursue those who may be powerful now, but stay faithfully beside the poor. And in this way you will not be afraid of anything, but your heart will be in joy.”
Living like this, in God’s presence, brings a “high level” joy, Francis said.
Today, too, St. Paul urges us not to worry, not to despair at all, but in all circumstances to present to God our requests, our needs, our concerns “with prayers and petitions.” The awareness that in difficulties we can always turn to the Lord, and that He never rejects our invocations, is a great reason for joy. No worry, no fear will ever take away the serenity that comes not from human things, from human consolations, no, the serenity that comes from God, from knowing that God lovingly guides our lives, and always does. Even in the midst of problems and sufferings, this certainty nourishes hope and courage.
Yet, to become these joy- and peace-filled people, the pope said, there is a lesson to draw from those who went to John the Baptist. His hearers all questioned him, “What should we do, then?”
This question is the first step for the conversion that we are invited to perform in this time of Advent. Each one of us should ask himself: What must I do? A very small thing, but “what must I do?” And may the Virgin Mary, who is our mother, help us to open our heart to God-Who-comes, so that He might inundate all our life with joy.
Repentance and joy: Friends, not enemies