In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to cultivate the virtue of knowing “how to step aside” in order to bear witness to Jesus, as St. John the Baptist did.
The pope also announced that an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square as part of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.
Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Jan. 15, the pope shared lessons from St. John the Baptist’s “spirit of service.”
Pope Francis said that St. John was “not interested in having a following for himself, in gaining prestige and success, but he bears witness and then steps back, so that many may have the joy of meeting Jesus.”
He reflected on St. John’s words after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River: “‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” (John 1: 29-30).
“This declaration, this testimony, reveals John’s spirit of service,” the pope said. “Humanly speaking, one would think that he would be given a ‘prize,’ a prominent place in Jesus’ public life. But no. John, having accomplished his mission, knows how to step aside, he withdraws from the scene to make way for Jesus.”
In this way, St. John the Baptist teaches “freedom from attachments” and “gratuitousness, taking care of others without benefit for oneself,” he said.
“Because it is easy to become attached to roles and positions, to the need to be esteemed, recognized and rewarded,” the pope reflected.
“It is good for us, too, to cultivate, like John, the virtue of setting ourselves aside at the right moment, bearing witness that the point of reference of life is Jesus.”
Pope Francis recommended self-reflection on the following questions: “Do we attract others to Jesus, or to ourselves? And furthermore, following the example of John: Do we know how to rejoice in the fact that people take their own path and follow their calling, even if this entails some detachment from us? Do we rejoice in their achievements with sincerity and without envy?”
At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis announced that an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30, 2023, as part of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.
The ecumenical prayer vigil, organized by the Taizé Community, will “entrust to God the work of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,” set to take place in two sessions from Oct. 4 to 29, 2023, and in October 2024.
“Starting now, I invite our brothers and sisters of all Christian denominations to participate in this gathering of the People of God,” the pope said.
Pope Francis also highlighted the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will begin this week on Jan. 18, noting that the “path to Christian unity and the Church’s journey to synodal conversion are linked.”
“We thank the Lord who faithfully and patiently guides his people toward full communion, and we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and sustain us with his gifts,” he said.
The pope urged people “not to forget the martyred people of Ukraine, who are suffering so much” and to remain close to them with aid and prayers.
He also greeted pilgrims who traveled to Rome from across the globe. “May your visit to St. Peter’s tomb strengthen your faith and your witness,” he said.