Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

The style of the apostle

When the messengers of John had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see–a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Lk 7,24-28

During the liturgical year we have often occasion to ponder on the figure of John the Baptist, pointing out each time different aspects. In the today’s gospel Jesus speaks of John, calling him his  “messenger” and stressing that this role is more important than that of “prophet.” We see, then, what is the subtle difference between “prophet” and “messenger” and we ask to ourselves whether we are called to be this or that. The prophet is one who speaks in the name of God because  “enlightened” by him, the messenger speaks in the name of God because “sent” by him. Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel are prophets: they propose, they remember, they proclaim and they warn. The archangel Gabriel, who is the messenger sent by God directly to Mary, announces and states: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Lk 1,30-31). Even the apostle of the New Testament, sent directly from the Lord to proclaim the gospel, is a messenger: “And Peter (said) to them: ‘Repent, and be baptized, every one of you,  in the name of Jesus Christ’”(Acts 2,38). John the Baptist, who lived in his flesh the transition between the Old and New Testament, can be simultaneously considered the last prophet and the first messenger of the Lord. At the beginning of the today passage, Jesus tells us as the God’s messenger has to live: he must not get excited like a reed in the wind of his time and he must live in sobriety and staying away from the excesses of the loosenesses of the society. I think these should also be our role and our style.

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