‘With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God Himself Who has come to dwell among us, to free us from selfishness, sin and corruption, as these attitudes are of the devil’
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In this second Sunday of Advent’s Gospel reading, we hear echoed the invitation of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 3,2). With these same words, Jesus will start his mission in Galilee (cf. Mt 4:17); and this will also be an announcement that will bring the disciples on their first missionary experience (cf. Mt 10,7). The Evangelist Matthew greatly wishes to present John as one who prepares the way for Christ’s coming, and the disciples, as continuing Jesus’ preaching. This is the same joyful proclamation: come, the kingdom of God is at hand … indeed, it is in our midst! This is very important: “The kingdom of God is among you,” says Jesus. And John announces that Jesus will say later: “The kingdom of God has come, has arrived, is in your midst.” This is the central message of all Christian mission. When a missionary goes, a Christian goes to proclaim Jesus, he does not go to proselytize, as if he were a fan seeking his team more closely. No, just announcing: “The kingdom of God is among you!,” the missionary prepares the way for Jesus, Who meets His people.
But what is this Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven? They are synonyms. We think now to something about the afterlife, eternal life. Of course, this is true, God’s Kingdom will extend endlessly beyond earthly life, but the good news that Jesus leads – and that John anticipates – is that in this Kingdom of God, we do not need to wait for Him in the future: He approached, [and], in some way, is already present. We can experience right now this spiritual power. “The kingdom of God is among you!,” says Jesus. God comes to establish His dominion in our history, in the ‘today’ of every day of our lives; and where it is accepted with faith and humility, love, joy and peace flourish.
The condition to become part of this Kingdom, is to make a change in our lives, that is, convert, convert ourselves every day, one step forward every day … [It] is to leave the convenient but misleading streets, the idols of this world: success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price. And instead open the way for the Lord Who comes. He does not take away our freedom, but gives us true happiness. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God Himself Who has come to dwell among us, to free us from selfishness, sin and corruption, as these attitudes are of the devil: looking for success at all costs; seeking power at the expense of the weakest; having the thirst for wealth and seeking pleasure at any price.
Christmas is a day of great joy, also exterior, but is primarily a religious event for which spiritual preparation is needed. In this Advent season, let us be guided by the exhortation of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (v. 3). Let us prepare the way of the Lord and straighten His paths, when we examine our conscience, when we watch our attitudes, to chase away these sinful attitudes that I mentioned, which are not of God: the success at all costs; the power at the expense of the weakest; the thirst for riches; the pleasure at any price.
May the Virgin Mary prepare the encounter with this always greater love, which is what Jesus brings, and Who on Christmas, was made small, like a seed fallen into the earth. And Jesus is this seed: the seed of the Kingdom of God.
[Original Text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]