Joy and Doubt,

DECEMBER 15, 2019

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this third Sunday of Advent, known as the Sunday “of joy”, the Word of God invites us on the one hand to joy, and on the other hand to the awareness that existence also includes moments of doubt, in which it is difficult to believe. Joy and doubt are both experiences that are part of our lives.

To the explicit invitation to joy of the prophet Isaiah: “The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom” (35: 1), the Gospel opposes the doubt of John the Baptist: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11: 3). Indeed, the prophet sees beyond the situation; he discouraged people before him: weak hands, trembling knees, lost hearts (cf. 35: 3-4). It is the same reality that in every age puts faith to the test. But the man of God looks beyond, because the Holy Spirit makes his heart feel the power of His promise, and he announces salvation: “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance” (v. 4). And then everything is transformed: the desert blooms, consolation and joy take possession of the lost of heart, the lame, the blind, the mute are healed (cf. vv. 5-6). This is what is realized with Jesus: “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Mt 11: 5).

This description shows us that salvation envelops the whole person and regenerates him. But this new birth, with the joy that accompanies it, always presupposes a death to ourselves and to the sin within us. Hence the call to conversion, which is the basis of the preaching of both the Baptist and Jesus; in particular, it is a question of converting our idea of God. And the time of Advent stimulates us to do this precisely with the question that John the Baptist poses to Jesus: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Mt 11: 3). We think: all his life John waited for the Messiah; his lifestyle, his very body is shaped by this expectation. This is also why Jesus praises him with those words: no one is greater than him among those born of a woman (cf. Mt 11: 11). Yet he too had to convert to Jesus. Like John, we too are called to recognize the face that God chose to assume in Jesus Christ, humble and merciful.

Advent is a time of grace. It tells us that it is not enough to believe in God: it is necessary to purify our faith every day. It is a matter of preparing ourselves to welcome not a fairy-tale character, but the God who challenges us, involves us and before whom a choice is imposed. The Child who lies in the manger has the face of our brothers and sisters most in need, of the poor who are “a privileged part of this mystery; often they are the first to recognize God’s presence in our midst” (Apostolic Letter Admirabile signum, 6).

May the Virgin Mary help us so that, as we approach Christmas, let us not allow ourselves to be distracted by external things, but make room in our hearts for the One Who has already come and Who wishes to come again to heal our illnesses and to give us His joy.

Pope Francis

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