.- Thousands of families gathered in St. Peter’s Square this morning to hear Pope Benedict speak about preparing their hearts for “He who comes” and to see the Vatican’s Christmas tree.
As the crowd listened to Pope Benedict’s address, little children tried to peek through the barriers surrounding the Vatican’s unfinished Nativity scene for this year.
The Pope offered those present a reflection on today’s Gospel, Matthew 3:1-12, which features St. John the Baptist being called into the wilderness to urge repentance to prepare for the coming of the Lord.
St. Gregory the Great, the Pope said, taught that “the Baptist preaches the true faith and good works ... so that … the pathways to God are straightened and honest thoughts are born in souls after listening to the Word that leads to all good.”
The Pope then connected the mission of John the Baptist to Advent. “(W)e too are called to hear God's voice, echoing in the wilderness of the world through the Holy Scriptures, especially when they are preached with the power of the Holy Spirit.”
He pointed Catholics to the Virgin Mary as the model of listening, saying, “As we contemplate in the Mother of God a life totally shaped by the word, we realize that we too are called to enter into the mystery of faith, whereby Christ comes to dwell in our lives.
“Every Christian believer, St. Ambrose reminds us, in some way interiorly conceives and gives birth to the word of God,” the Pope said.
Situations around the world that cry out for the coming of Christ were also on the Pope’s mind as he reflected on the phenomenon of waiting that is associated with Advent. He asked everyone to pray for “all situations of violence, intolerance, suffering in the world, that the coming of Jesus may bring consolation, reconciliation and peace.”
In particular, the Pope mentioned “the continuous attacks that occur in Iraq against Christians and Muslims,” election-related violence in Egypt, and a dramatic situation in the Sinai desert where Bedouin human traffickers have taken hundreds of people hostage, subjecting them to torture to extract payments from their relatives living abroad.
Pope Benedict finished his address by praying: “We ask the Virgin Mary in whose womb the Son of the Most High dwelt, and who we celebrate next Wednesday, Dec. 8, in the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, to support us on this spiritual path, to welcome in faith and love the coming of the Savior.”