Pope: a "perfect disciple", proclaims Jesus, does not feel it a privilege to be Christian, imitates Christ
Vatican City ( AsiaNews) - Proclaiming Jesus, without feeling it a privilege to be Christians as a privilege, imitating Christ: this is John the Baptist, the 'icon of the perfect disciple' according to Pope Francis' description today during the Mass this morning at Casa Santa Marta.
The Pope, Vatican Radio reports, was commenting on the Gospel passage on the martyrdom of John the Baptist. Herod had him killed to satisfy the whim of his mistress Herodias and her daughter. John, said the Pope , is "a man who had a short life, a short time to proclaim the Word of God". He was the man that "God had sent to prepare the way for His Son". And John's life ends badly, at the court of Herod "in the middle of a banquet". "Where courts are concerned anything is possible: corruption, vices, crimes. Courts favor these things. What did John do? First of all, he proclaimed the Lord. He proclaimed, that the Savior, the Lord was close at hand, that the Kingdom of God was close at hand. And he had done so with great vigor. He baptized. He exhorted all to repentance. He was a strong man. And he preached Jesus Christ".
"The first, great, thing John did was to proclaim Jesus Christ". He also "took possession of his moral authority". He was given "a chance to say 'I am the Messiah', because he had so much moral authority", "all the people came to him". And the Gospel tells us that John told them all to convert. And the Pharisees, the doctors saw his strength: "He was a righteous man". Then, they asked him if he was the Messiah. And in that "moment of temptation, of vanity" he could have shrugged and said "But I do not know ... " with a "false humility". Instead, he was clear: "No, not I! Behind me comes one who is more powerful than I, for whom I am not worthy to bend over and loosen the thongs of his sandals". John "was clear", "he did not steal the title. He did not become the master". This, then, "is the second thing that he did, he was "a man of truth", "he did not steal dignity". The third thing that John did "is to imitate Christ." Even Herod, who killed him, "believed that Jesus was John".
John imitated Jesus, "especially in the way he humbled himself: John humbled himself even to the end, until death". Also there is "the same style of death, shameful: Jesus like a robber, a thief, a criminal on the cross". "Humiliating deaths. But John had his 'Garden of Gethsemane', his anguish in prison, when he thought he made a mistake , and sends his disciples to ask Jesus: 'But tell me , is it you or did I make a mistake and there is another? 'The darkness of the soul, the darkness that purifies like Jesus in the Garden of Olives. And Jesus answered John like the Father answered Jesus, comforting. That darkness of the man of God, the woman of God, this make me think of the dark night of the soul of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Ah, the woman who was praised all over the world, a Nobel Laureate! But in a moment of her life, her long life, she knew only darkness inside".
"The precursor of Jesus Christ", John "did not take over the prophecy", he "is the icon of a disciple". But "where was the source of his attitude of discipleship?". It came from an encounter. The Gospel tells us about the encounter between Mary and Elizabeth, when John leaped for joy in Elizabeth's womb. They were cousins. "Maybe they met a few times. And that encounter was filled with joy, so much joy for John's heart and turned him into a disciple". John is "the man who proclaims Jesus Christ, who does not take the place of Jesus Christ and follows the path of Jesus Christ".
"It would do us good today, to ponder our discipleship: do we proclaim Jesus Christ? Do w take advantage or not of our condition as Christians, as if it were a privilege? John did not take advantage of his prophecy. Thirdly, do we follow the path of Jesus Christ? The path of humiliation, humility, humbling ourselves in service? And if we find that we are not firm in this we should ask: 'When was my encounter with Jesus Christ, that meeting that filled me with joy?. And return again to that first encounter, return to the Galilee of our first meeting. We all have one! We must go back there! Meet again with the Lord and go forward on this path that is so beautiful, in which He must grow and we become less".