Archbishop’s Teaching

6th Sunday in Advent Nativity of John the Baptist Luke 1:57-66

Homily of His Excellency Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

6th Sunday in Advent
Nativity of John the Baptist
Luke 1:57-66

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

For his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptist was
an unexpected event, since they were old and, in their eyes, the future had
little to offer them. But then came the inconceivable, the unexpected, the
impossible. Good news like they'd never expected before! A son in their
old age.
With the birth of John the Baptist, the passage from law to grace, from
Moses to Jesus, is also accomplished. His name, John "Yo-Hanôn", which
means "God is tenderness", is a sign of the Lord's mercy for his parents,
but also for his people. Through his birth, John the Baptist tells us that
"nothing is impossible for God", that the Lord has not yet said his last
word in our lives and in the world. He still has some surprises in store for
us. John's birth already anticipates the birth of the One for whom he leapt
with joy in his mother's womb...

John was not the Light who came to dispel the darkness, but his whole life
was a testimony to the light he was enlightened by: "I am not the Christ,"
he said, "but I have been sent before Him. His mission was to bear witness
to the light before men, and to prepare them to welcome it. He is the voice
crying out in the desert: "Prepare the ways of the Lord, make straight his
paths." Seeing Jesus passing by, he points to those around him as "the
Lamb of God". He exhorts his people to conversion, so that they can
receive God's mercy and his coming into their hearts.
His mission accomplished, John humbly fades away: "He must increase,
and I must decrease. His greatness was to have paved the way for Jesus,
the Messiah, to let him in turn fulfill his mission, that of inaugurating,
through his death and resurrection, a new covenant between God and us...
We all belong to this new covenant, having been baptized in the spirit and
fire of God's love. But let's face it, we still need to hear the prophetic word
of John the Baptist reminding us to repent, his exhortation to return to
Jesus our Saviour.
However, if we are to welcome the message of John the Baptist, we must
at the same time make his attitude our own, decreasing ourselves,
renouncing ourselves to let Christ Jesus grow within us by becoming his
disciples, his brothers and sisters, his beloved friends, so that Jesus may
dwell within us and give us the strength to love, the courage to believe in
Him despite everything, and the patience to hope that He will not abandon
us no matter our situation is.
Following John the Baptist, let us remember that, through baptism, we
have received a vocation and a prophetic mission, that we are called to
proclaim the tenderness of God in Christ who comes to save men, through
the witness of our renewed lives, by the permanent conversion of our
hearts and through our relationships with others.

Lord, God of love and mercy, arouse in us the zeal of John the Baptist to
bear witness to your tenderness for us, and courageously announce your
coming into the heart of each one of us. We thank you with Elizabeth and
Zechariah, in gratitude for the wonders you accomplish in our lives,
through Jesus Christ your beloved Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *