Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Misa de Aguinaldo December 19, 2013: John the Baptist's Ministry of Reconciliation

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

St. John the Baptist was the one foretold by the Prophet Isaiah as the voice crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. His mission was made clear by the angel who announced his birth to Zechariah his father: “he will bring many of the children of Israel back to the Lord their God. He will go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons, and to bring back to the righteous way those who go astray. In this way, he will prepare a people worthy of the Lord.”
The ministry of St. John the Baptist is clearly a ministry of reconciliation. He calls for the conversion of people. He preaches a baptism of repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” In the new evangelization, the Church must take up this task of St. John the Baptist. Pope Francis wrote: “all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel.” (Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 20.)

The message that the Church bears is no different from that of St. John the Baptist – it is always a call, an invitation to all people to go to Jesus. Pope Francis said: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace’. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another ‘seventy times seven’ (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!” (EG, 3.)

The Church must undergo a conversion which the pope calls as the “missionary conversion.” The Church must experience “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”(EG, 27) We must exert all our efforts to reach out to those who need to hear the gospel. “Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. In our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2).” (EG, 67.)
The work of the Church is the same as John’s. Let us heal wounds, build bridges and strengthen relationships.

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

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