This Sunday's gospel continues the theme of St. John the Baptist, the voice crying in the desert: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths." The people wonder if John himself is the Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. St. Augustine comments:
Since it is difficult to distinguish the voice and the word, John himself was thought to be Christ. The voice was taken to be the Word. But the voice admitted his identity, lest he might displease the Word. I am not the Christ, he said, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. In reply to, Who are you? he said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, the voice of one breaking the silence. Prepare the way of the Lord, is as though he said: I cry out to lead him into your heart – but he will not condescend to come where I am leading, unless you prepare the way.
What does to prepare the way mean, except to pray as you ought, to be humble-minded? Take an example of humility from John himself. He is thought to be the Christ, but he says he is not what people think. He does not use the mistake of others to feed his own pride. Suppose he had said: I am the Christ. How easily would he have been believed, since that was what people were thinking before he spoke! But he did not say it. He acknowledged who he was, distinguished himself from Christ, humbled himself.O God, who see how your people faithfully await the feast of the Lord’s Nativity, enable us, we pray, to attain the joys of so great a salvation, and to celebrate them always with solemn worship and glad rejoicing.