By Thaddeus Jones
Pope Francis welcomed the many pilgrims for the midday Angelus on this Third Sunday of Advent, in particular families with their children, who brought little statuettes of the Child Jesus to be blessed on this day, a tradition Saint Pope Paul VI started over fifty years ago.
Before imparting his apostolic blessing, the Pope Francis offered his reflections on the Sunday Gospel when today we read about John the Baptist who while in prison sends his disciples to ask Jesus if He really is the Messiah. John the Baptist learns that Jesus is indeed the Christ, who with words and gestures of compassion towards all and with loving mercy heals the sick, restores sight to the blind, raises the dead, and preaches good news to the poor, just as the prophets foretold.
The Pope observed how today’s Gospel notes that John is in prison, and more than a physical place, we can imagine the inner confine that the Baptist is experiencing, where there can be darkness, unknowing and difficulty seeing clearly. The Pope said in John’s case, it is as if he is no longer able to see in Jesus the awaited Messiah, and out of doubt sends his disciples to verify it.
This appears rather surprising to us, the Pope pointed out, since John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan and told his disciples He is the Lamb of God.
We need to always be open to surprise about how God works and how His actions are different from how we would presume they would be, exceeding our needs and expectations, the Pope emphasized. So we need to seek the Lord always, keep our eyes open, and be changed by Him. Recalling the work of theologian Henri de Lubac, he said that God needs to be rediscovered in a series of stages, sometimes with the idea that we may be losing Him. Like John the Baptist, may we too rediscover Him, also by opening our minds and not letting our ideas and mindsets limit our understanding.
Surprised by God’s mercy
At times we also may not see any newness in the Lord, the Pope suggested, and be held captive by our thinking that we know so much already about Him. Perhaps we see a powerful God only but overlook His humble meekness, mercy and love, “who always intervenes respecting our freedom and our choices,” he added. Our ideas or biases about God and even others need to be challenged, he said, and Advent is an ideal time for “overturning our perspectives, for letting ourselves be surprised by God’s mercy.”
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged everyone to allow the Blessed Mother to “take us by the hand” as we prepare for Christmas and to recognize in the smallness of the Infant Jesus the greatness of God who is coming to dwell among us.
The Pope then greeted the children present in the square and wished them and their families a blessed Christmas. He blessed the figurines of the Child Jesus they brought with them that they will then place in their own Christmas nativity scenes back home.
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