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Too much stuff? Pope draws unique lesson from John the Baptist

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Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 12/10/23

If someone does not know how to be quiet, it is unlikely they will have something good to say ...
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On this 2nd Sunday of Advent, the Pope noted two “contradictory things” to be seen in the lesson of John the Baptist: the desert and speaking.

His brief reflection on the day’s Gospel is a good way to ask ourselves how Advent is going.

Here is the text:

On this second Sunday of Advent, the Gospel speaks to us about John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus (cf. Mk 1:1-8), and it describes him as “the voice of one crying in the desert” (v. 3). The desert, an empty place, where you do not communicate; and the voice, a means to speak – these seem like two contradictory images. But they are joined in the Baptist.

The desert. John preaches there, near the Jordan River, near the place where his people had entered the promised land many centuries earlier (cf. Joshua 3:1-17). In so doing, it is like he was saying: to listen to God, we must return to the place where, for forty years, he accompanied, protected and educated his people, in the desert. This is the place of silence and essentials, where someone cannot afford to dwell on useless things, but needs to concentrate on what is indispensable in order to live.

And this is an always relevant reminder: to proceed on the journey of life, we need to be stripped of the “more”, because to live well does not mean being filled with useless things, but being freed from the superfluous, to dig deeply within ourselves so as to hold on to what is truly important before God. Only if, through silence and prayer, we make space for Jesus, who is the Word of the Father, will we know how to be freed from the pollution of vain words and chatter. Silence and sobriety – from words, from the use of things, from the media and social media – these are not just fioretti (translator’s note: a common practice in Italian devotional life in which someone offers a small sacrifice, a resolution, or the proposal to do a good deed to Our Lord or Our Lady) or virtues, they areessential elements in the Christian life.

And we come to the second image, the voice. This is the means by which we manifest what we think and what we bear in our hearts. We understand, therefore, that it is quite connected with silence, because it expresses what matures inside, from listening to what the Spirit suggests. Brothers and sisters, if someone does not know how to be quiet, it is unlikely they will have something good to say; while, the more attentive the silence, the stronger the word. In John the Baptist that voice is linked to the genuineness of his experience and the purity of his heart.

We can ask ourselves: What place does silence have in my days? Is it an empty, perhaps oppressive, silence? Or is it a space for listening, for prayer, for guarding my heart? Is my life sober or filled with superfluous things? Even if it means going against the tide, let us value silence, sobriety and listening. May Mary, Virgin of silence, help us to love the desert, to become credible voices who testify to her Son who is coming.

AdventPope Francis
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