View Articles

Monday, December 11, 2017

0565: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Advent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0565: Reflections on the Third Sunday of Advent    
 by Pope Francis 


On four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Third Sunday of Advent, on 15 December 2013, 14 December 2014, 13 December 2015, and 11 December 2016. Here are the texts of four brief addresses prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 15 December 2013

Thank you! Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent, which is called Gaudete Sunday; that is, the Sunday of joy. In the Liturgy the invitation rings out several times to rejoice, why? Because the Lord is near. Christmas is near. The Christian message is called the ‘Gospel’; i.e. ‘good news’, an announcement of joy for all people; the Church is not a haven for sad people, the Church is a joyful home! And those who are sad find joy in her, they find in her true joy!

However, the joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God. As the Prophet Isaiah reminds us today (see 35:1-6a, 8a, 10), God is he who comes to save us and who seeks to help, especially those who are fearful of heart. His coming among us strengthens us, makes us steadfast, gives us courage, makes the desert and the steppe rejoice and blossom; that is, when our lives becomes arid. And when do our lives become arid? When they lack the water of God’s Word and his Spirit of love. However great our limitations and dismay, we are not allowed to be sluggish and vacillating when faced with difficulty and our own weakness. On the contrary, we are invited to strengthen the weak hands, to make firm the feeble knees, to be strong and to fear not, because our God always shows us the greatness of his mercy. He gives us the strength to go forward. He is always with us in order to help us to go forward. He is a God who loves us so very much, he loves us and that is why he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us, help us go forward. Courage! Always forward! Thanks to his help, we can always begin again. How? Begin again from scratch. Someone might say to me: “No, Father, I did so many reprehensible things, I am a great sinner, I cannot begin from scratch!” You are wrong! You can begin from scratch! Why? Because he is waiting for you, he is close to you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strength to begin again from scratch! Everybody! And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy; because it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

Christian joy, like hope, is founded on God’s fidelity, on the certainty that he always keeps his promises. The Prophet Isaiah exhorts those who have lost their way and have lost heart to entrust themselves to the faithfulness of the Lord, for his salvation will not delay in bursting into their lives. All those who have encountered Jesus along the way experience a serenity and joy in their hearts which nothing and no one can take away. Our joy is Jesus Christ, his faithful love is inexhaustible! Therefore, when a Christian becomes sad, it means that he has distanced himself from Jesus. But then we must not leave him alone! We should pray for him, and make him feel the warmth of the community.

May the Virgin Mary help us to hasten our steps to Bethlehem, to encounter the Child who is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all people. To her the angel said: “Hail, full of grace: the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). May she obtain for us the grace to live the joy of the Gospel in our families, at work, in the parish and everywhere. An intimate joy, fashioned of wonder and tenderness. The joy a mother experiences when she looks at her newborn baby and feels that he or she is a gift from God, a miracle for which she can only give thanks!


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 14 December 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Children, Dear Boys and Girls,
Good Morning!

For two weeks already, the Season of Advent has been calling us to spiritual vigilance in preparing the way for the Lord who is to come. On this Third Sunday, the Liturgy sets forth another interior attitude by which to live out this time of waiting for the Lord, that is joy. The joy of Jesus, as that sign [held up in Saint Peter’s Square] reads: “Joy is at home in Jesus.” That’s it, it proposes Jesus’ joy to us!

The human heart desires joy. We all desire joy, every family, every people aspires to happiness. But what is the joy that the Christian is called to live out and bear witness to? It is the joy that comes from the closeness of God, from his presence in our life. From the moment Jesus entered into history, with his birth in Bethlehem, humanity received the seed of the Kingdom of God, like the soil receives the seed, the promise of a future harvest. There is no need to look further! Jesus has come to bring joy to all people for all time. It is not just a hopeful joy or a joy postponed until paradise: as if here on earth we are sad but in paradise we will be filled with joy. No! It is not that, but a joy already real and tangible now, because Jesus himself is our joy, and with Jesus joy finds its home, as your sign there says: joy is at home in Jesus. All of us, let us say it: “Joy is at home in Jesus.” Once more: “Joy is at home in Jesus.” And without Jesus is there joy? No! Well done! He is living, He is the Risen One, and He works in us and among us especially with the Word and the Sacraments.

We who are baptized, children of the Church, we are called to accept ever anew the presence of God among us and to help others to discover Him, or to rediscover what they have forgotten. It is a most beautiful mission, like that of John the Baptist: to direct the people to Christ—not to ourselves!—for He is the destination to which the human heart tends when it seeks joy and happiness.

In today’s liturgy Saint Paul again indicates the conditions for being “missionaries of joy:” praying constantly, always giving thanks to God, giving way to his Spirit, seeking the good and avoiding evil (see 1 Thess 5:17-22). If this becomes our lifestyle, then the Good News will be able to enter so many homes and help people and families to rediscover that in Jesus lies salvation. In Him it is possible to find interior peace and the strength to face different life situations every day, even the heaviest and most difficult. No one has ever heard of a sad saint with a mournful face. This is unheard of! It would be a contradiction. The Christian’s heart is filled with peace because he knows how to place his joy in the Lord even when going through the difficult moments in life. To have faith does not mean to never have difficult moments but to have the strength to face those moments knowing that we are not alone. And this is the peace that God gives to his children.

With her gaze turned to Christmas already close at hand, the Church invites us to bear witness that Jesus is not a person of the past; He is the Word of God who today continues to illuminate the path of mankind; his gestures—the Sacraments—are the manifestation of the tenderness, consolation and love that the Father bears for every human being. May the Virgin Mary, “Cause of our joy,” render us ever more joyous in the Lord, who comes to free us from the many forms of interior and exterior slavery.


HOLY MASS AT THE ROMAN PARISH
“SAN GIUSEPPE ALL’AURELIO”

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Sunday, 14 December 2014

On this Sunday, the Church, looks forward to the joy of Christmas, and that is why it is called “Gaudete Sunday.” In this season, a time of preparation for Christmas, we wear dark vestments, but today they are pink for the blossoming of Christmas joy. And the joy of Christmas is a special joy; but it is a joy that isn’t just for the day of Christmas, it is for the entire life of a Christian. It is a serene and tranquil joy, a joy that forever accompanies the Christian. Even in difficult moments, in moments of difficulty, this joy becomes peace. When he is a true Christian, the Christian never loses his peace, even in suffering. That peace is a gift from the Lord. Christian joy is a gift from the Lord. “Ah, Father, we’ll have a nice big luncheon, everybody will be happy.” This is lovely, a nice luncheon is good; but this isn’t the Christian joy we are talking about today. Christian joy is something else. It brings us together to celebrate, it’s true. Thus the Church wants you to understand what Christian joy is.

The Apostle Saint Paul says to the Thessalonians: “Brothers, rejoice always.” And how can I rejoice? He says: “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances.” We find our Christian joy in prayer, it comes from prayer and from giving thanks to God: “Thank you, Lord, for so many beautiful things!” But there are those who don’t know how to give thanks to God; they are always looking for something to lament about. I knew a sister—far from here!—this sister was a good woman, she worked, but her life was about lamenting, complaining about so many things that happened. You see, in the convent they called her “Sr Lamenta.” But a Christian cannot live like this, always looking for something to complain about: “That person has something I don’t have. Did you see what just happened?” This is not Christian! And it is harmful to find Christians with embittered faces, with a face wry with bitterness, not in peace. Never, never was there a saint with a mournful face, never! Saints always have joy in their faces. Or at least, amid suffering, a face of peace. The greatest suffering, the martyrdom of Jesus: He always had peace in his face and was concerned about others: his mother, John, the thief. His concern was for others.

To have this Christian joy, first, is prayer; second, to give thanks. And what do I do to give thanks? Reflect on your life and think of the many good things that life has given you: so many. “But, Father, it’s true, but I have also received so many bad things!”—“Yes, it’s true, it happens to us all. But think of the good things”—“I have a Christian family, Christian parents, thank God I have a job, my family is not suffering of hunger, we are all healthy.” I don’t know, so many things, and give thanks to the Lord for this. This accustoms us to joy. Pray, give thanks.

And then, the First Reading suggests another dimension that will help us to have joy. It is to bring others the Good News: We are Christians. “Christian” comes from “Christ,” and “Christ” means “anointed.” And we too are “anointed.” The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord consecrated me with unction. We are anointed: Christians mean “anointed ones.” And why are we anointed? To do what? “He sent me to bring the good news” to whom? “To the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (see Is 61:1-2). This is the vocation of Christ and the vocation of Christians as well. To go to others, to those in need, whether their needs be material or spiritual. Many people who suffer anxiety because of family problems. To bring peace there, to bring the unction of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles souls.

Therefore, in order to have this joy in preparation for Christmas, first, pray: “Lord, let me live this Christmas with true joy.” Not with the joy of consumerism that leads me to 24 December with anxiety, because “ah, I’m missing this, I’m missing that.” No, this is not the joy of God. Prayer. Second: give thanks to the Lord for the good things he has given us. Third, think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems—let us think of the sick, of so many problems—to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? We have 15 days left, a little less: 13 days. In these days, let us pray. But do not forget: let us pray, asking for the joy of Christmas. Let us give thanks to God for the good things that he has given us, above all the faith. This is a wonderful grace. Third, let us think where I can go to bring a little relief, a little peace, to those who suffer. Pray, give thanks and help others. And like this we will arrive at the Birth of the Anointed One, the Christ, as ones anointed in grace, prayer and acts of grace and help towards others.

May Our Lady accompany us on this path towards Christmas. And let there be joy, joy!


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 13 December 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In today’s Gospel, there is a question posed three times: “What shall we do?” (Lk 3:10, 12, 14). It is raised to John the Baptist by three categories of people: First, the crowd in general; second, the publicans or tax collectors; and, third, some soldiers. Each of these groups questions the prophet on what must be done to implement the conversion that he is preaching. John’s reply to the question of the crowd is sharing essential goods. He told the first group, the crowd, to share basic necessities, and therefore says: “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (v. 11). Then, he tells the second group, the tax collectors, to collect no more than the amount owed. What does this mean? No taking ‘bribes’, John the Baptist is clear. And he tells the third group, the soldiers, not to extort anything from anyone and to be content with their wages (see v. 14). There are three answers to the three questions of these groups. Three answers for an identical path of repentance, which is manifested in concrete commitments to justice and solidarity. It is the path that Jesus points to in all his preaching: the path of diligent love for neighbor.

From John the Baptist’s admonitions, we understand the general tendencies of those who at that time held power, in various forms. Things have not changed very much. However, no category of people is excluded from following the path of repentance to obtain salvation, not even the tax collectors, considered sinners by definition: not even they are excluded from salvation. God does not preclude anyone from the opportunity to be saved. He is—so to speak—anxious to show mercy, to show it towards everyone, and to welcome each one into the tender embrace of reconciliation and forgiveness.

We feel that this question—“What shall we do?”—is ours also. Today’s liturgy tells us, in the words of John, that it is necessary to repent, to change direction and take the path of justice, solidarity, sobriety: these are the essential values of a fully human and genuinely Christian life. Repent! It sums up the message of the Baptist. And the Liturgy of this Third Sunday of Advent helps us to rediscover a special dimension of repentance: joy. Whoever repents and approaches the Lord, feels joy. The prophet Zephaniah says to us today: “Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion!” addressing Jerusalem (Zeph 3:14); and the apostle Paul exhorts the Christians of Philippi: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). Today, it takes courage to speak of joy, which, above all, requires faith! The world is beset by many problems, the future is burdened by uncertainties and fears. Yet, Christians are a joyful people, and their joy is not something superficial and ephemeral, but deep and stable, because it is a gift from the Lord that fills life. Our joy comes from the certainty that “the Lord is at hand” (Phil 4:5): he is close with his tenderness, his mercy, his forgiveness and his love.

May the Virgin Mary help us to strengthen our faith, so that we are able to welcome the God of joy, the God of mercy, who always wants to live in the midst of his children. May our Mother teach us to share tears with those who weep, in order to be able to also share a smile.


HOLY MASS AT THE
BASILICA OF SAINT JOHN LATERAN

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Sunday, 13 December 2015

The invitation extended by the Prophet to the ancient city of Jerusalem is also addressed today to the whole Church and to each one of us: “Rejoice, exult!” (Zeph 3:14). The reason for joy is expressed with words which inspire hope, and which can look to the future with serenity. The Lord revoked all condemnation and has decided to live among us.

This Third Sunday of Advent draws our gaze towards Christmas, which is now near. We cannot let ourselves be taken in by weariness; sadness in any form is not allowed, even though we may have reason, with many concerns and the many forms of violence which wound our humanity. The coming of the Lord, however, must fill our hearts with joy. The prophet in whose very name—Zephaniah—is inscribed the content of this announcement, opens our hearts to trust: “God protects” his people. In a historical context of great tyranny and violence, especially by men of power, God makes it known that he will reign over his people, that he will no longer leave them at the mercy of the arrogance of their leaders, and that he will free them from all anguish. Today, we are asked to “let not our hands grow weak” (see Zeph 3:16) due to doubt, impatience or suffering.

The Apostle Paul vigorously resumes the teaching of the prophet Zephaniah and reiterates: “The Lord is at hand” (Phil 4:5). Because of this we should rejoice always, and to everyone graciously bear witness to the closeness and care that God has for each person.

We have opened the Holy Door, here and in all the Cathedrals of the world. Even this simple sign is an invitation to joy. The time of great forgiveness begins. It is the Jubilee of Mercy. It is time to rediscover the presence of God and his fatherly tenderness. God does not love rigidity. He is Father; he is tender. He does everything with the tenderness of the Father. We too are like the crowds who ask John, “What then shall we do” (Lk 3:10). The response of the Baptist is immediate. He invites us to act justly and to look after the needs of those who are in need. What John demands of his interlocutors, however, is what is reflected in the law. We, however, are asked for a more radical commitment. Before the Holy Door that we are called to pass through, we are asked to be instruments of mercy, knowing that we will be judged on this. Those who are baptized know that they have a greater task. Faith in Christ leads to a lifelong journey: to be merciful like the Father. The joy of passing through the Door of Mercy is accompanied by a commitment to welcome and witness to a love that surpasses justice, a love that knows no boundaries. It is for this infinite love that we are responsible, in spite of our contradictions.

Let us pray for ourselves and for all who pass through the Door of Mercy, that we may understand and welcome the infinite love of our Heavenly Father, who recreates, transforms and reforms life.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 December 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, which is characterized by Saint Paul’s invitation: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. The Lord is at hand” (Phil 4:4-5). It is not a superficial or purely emotional cheerfulness that the Apostle exhorts, nor is it the cheerfulness of worldliness or of consumerism. No, it is not that, but rather, it entails a more authentic joy, the taste of which we are called to rediscover. The taste of true joy. It is a joy that touches our innermost being, as we await Jesus, who has already come to bring salvation to the world, the promised Messiah, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary. The liturgy of the Word offers us the appropriate context for understanding and living out this joy. Isaiah speaks of wilderness, of dry land, of plains (see 35:1); the Prophet has before him weak hands, feeble knees, fearful hearts, people who are blind, deaf and dumb (see vv. 3-6). The context of this situation is desolation, an inexorable fate without God.

But finally salvation is proclaimed: “Be strong, fear not!”—the Prophet says—“Behold, your God. He will come and save you” (see Is 35:4). And straight away everything is transformed: the desert blooms, comfort and joy permeate hearts (see vv. 5-6). These signs proclaimed by Isaiah as signs of salvation which is already present; they are fulfilled in Jesus. He himself affirms it by responding to the messengers sent by John the Baptist—what does Jesus say to these messengers? “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up” (Mt 11:5). They are not words, but are facts which demonstrate how salvation, brought by Jesus, seizes the human being and regenerates him. God has entered history in order to free us from the slavery of sin; he set his tent in our midst in order to share our existence, to heal our lesions, to bind our wounds and to give us new life. Joy is the fruit of this intervention of God’s salvation and love.

We are called to let ourselves be drawn in by the feeling of exultation. This exultation, this joy. But a Christian who isn’t joyful is a Christian who is lacking something, or else is not a Christian! It is heartfelt joy, the joy within which leads us forth and gives us courage. The Lord comes, he comes into our life as a liberator; he comes to free us from all forms of interior and exterior slavery. It is he who shows us the path of faithfulness, of patience and of perseverance because, upon his return, our joy will be overflowing. Christmas is near, the signs of his approach are evident along our streets and in our houses; here too, in Saint Peter’s Square, the Nativity scene has been placed with the tree beside it. These outward signs invite us to welcome the Lord who always comes and knocks at our door, knocks at our heart, in order to draw near to us; he invites us to recognize his footsteps among the brothers and sisters who pass beside us, especially the weakest and most needy.

Today we are called to rejoice for the imminent coming of our Redeemer; and we are called to share this joy with others, giving comfort and hope to the poor, the sick, and to people who are lonely and unhappy. May the Virgin Mary, the “handmaid of the Lord,” help us to hear God’s voice in prayer and to serve him with compassion in our brothers, so as to be prepared for the Christmas appointment, preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *


For reflections on the Third Sunday of Advent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


* * * * *

Saturday, December 9, 2017

0564: Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0564: Reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent    
 by Pope Francis 


On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent, on 7 December 2014, 6 December 2015, and 4 December 2016. Here are the texts of the two brief addresses delivered prior to the recitation of the Angelus.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 7 December 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

This Sunday marks the second stage of the Season of Advent, a marvelous time which reawakens in us the expectation of Christ’s return and the memory of his historical coming. Today’s Liturgy presents us with a message full of hope. It is the Lord’s express invitation from the lips of the Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (40:1). These words open the Book of Comfort, in which the Prophet addresses the joyous proclamation of liberation to the people in exile. The time of tribulation has ended; the people of Israel can look trustingly toward the future: at last they can return to their homeland. This is the reason for the invitation to let themselves be comforted by the Lord.

Isaiah addresses people who have passed through a dark period, who have been subjected to a very difficult trial; but now the time of comfort has come. Sorrow and fear can be replaced with joy, for the Lord himself will guide his people on the way to liberation and salvation. How will He do all this? With the solicitude and tenderness of a shepherd who takes care of his flock. He will in fact provide unity and security and feed his flock, gather the lost sheep into his sure fold, reserve special attention to the most fragile and weak (v. 11). This is God’s attitude toward us, his creatures. For this reason, the Prophet invites those who hear him—including us, today—to spread this message of hope: that the Lord consoles us. And to make room for the comfort which comes from the Lord.

We cannot be messengers of God’s comfort if we do not first feel the joy of being comforted and loved by Him. This happens especially when we hear his Word, the Gospel, which we should carry in our pocket: do not forget this! The Gospel in your pocket or purse, to read regularly. And this gives us comfort: when we abide in silent prayer in his presence, when we encounter Him in the Eucharist or in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. All this comforts us.

Let us therefore allow Isaiah’s call—“Comfort, comfort my people”—resound in our heart in this Season of Advent. Today there is need for people to be witnesses to the mercy and tenderness of God, who spurs the resigned, enlivens the disheartened, ignites the fire of hope. He ignites the fire of hope! We don’t. So many situations require our comforting witness. To be joyful, comforting people. I am thinking of those who are burdened by suffering, injustice and tyranny; of those who are slaves to money, to power, to success, to worldliness. Poor dears! They have fabricated consolation, not the true comfort of the Lord! We are all called to comfort our brothers and sisters, to testify that God alone can eliminate the causes of existential and spiritual tragedies. He can do it! He is powerful!

Isaiah’s message, which resounds in this second Sunday of Advent, is a salve on our wounds and an impetus to prepare with commitment the way of the Lord. Indeed, today the Prophet speaks to heart to tell us that God condones our sins and comforts us. If we entrust ourselves to Him with a humble and penitent heart, He will tear down the walls of evil, He will fill in the holes of our omissions, He will smooth over the bumps of arrogance and vanity, and will open the way of encounter with Him. It is curious, but many times we are afraid of consolation, of being comforted. Or rather, we feel more secure in sorrow and desolation. Do you know why? Because in sorrow we feel almost as protagonists. However, in consolation the Holy Spirit is the protagonist! It is He who consoles us, it is He who gives us the courage to go out of ourselves. It is He who opens the door to the source of every true comfort, that is, the Father. And this is conversion. Please, let yourselves be comforted by the Lord! Let yourselves be comforted by the Lord!

The Virgin Mary is the “Way” that God Himself prepared in order to come into the world. Le us entrust to Her the salvation and peace awaited by all men and women of our time.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 6 December 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

On this second Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy places us in the school of John the Baptist, who preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Perhaps we ask ourselves, “Why do we have to convert? Conversion is about an atheist who becomes a believer or a sinner who becomes just. But we don’t need it. We are already Christians. So we are okay.” But this isn’t true. In thinking like this, we don’t realize that it is precisely because of this presumption—that we are Christians, that everyone is good, that we’re okay—that we must convert: from the supposition that, all things considered, things are fine as they are and we don’t need any kind of conversion. But let us ask ourselves: is it true that in the various situations and circumstances of life, we have within us the same feelings that Jesus has? Is it true that we feel as Christ feels? For example, when we suffer some wrongdoing or some insult, do we manage to react without animosity and to forgive from the heart those who apologize to us? How difficult it is to forgive! How difficult! “You’re going to pay for this”—that phrase comes from inside! When we are called to share joys or sorrows, do we know how to sincerely weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice? When we should express our faith, do we know how to do it with courage and simplicity, without being ashamed of the Gospel? Thus we can ask ourselves so many questions. We’re not all right. We must always convert and have the sentiments that Jesus had.

The voice of the Baptist still cries in the deserts of humanity today, which are—what are today’s deserts?—closed minds and hardened hearts. And [his voice] causes us to ask ourselves if we are actually following the right path, living a life according to the Gospel. Today, as then, he admonishes us with the words of the Prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord!” (v. 4). It is a pressing invitation to open one’s heart and receive the salvation that God offers ceaselessly, almost obstinately, because he wants us all to be free from the slavery of sin. But the text of the prophet amplifies this voice, portending that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (v. 6). And salvation is offered to every man, and every people, without exclusion, to each one of us. None of us can say, “I’m a saint; I’m perfect; I’m already saved.” No. We must always accept this offer of salvation. This is the reason for the Year of Mercy: to go farther on this journey of salvation, this path that Jesus taught us. God wants all of mankind to be saved through Jesus, the one mediator (see 1 Tim 2:4-6).

Therefore, each one of us is called to make Jesus known to those who do not yet know him. But this is not to proselytize. No, it is to open a door. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16), Saint Paul declared. If Our Lord Jesus has changed our lives, and he changes it every time we go to him, how can we not feel the passion to make him known to those we encounter at work, at school, in our apartment building, in the hospital, in meeting places? If we look around us, we find people who would be willing to begin—or begin again—a journey of faith were they to encounter Christians in love with Jesus. Shouldn’t we and couldn’t we be these Christians? I leave you this question: “Am I truly in love with Jesus? Am I convinced that Jesus offers me and gives me salvation?” And, if I am in love, I have to make him known! But we must be courageous: lay low the mountains of pride and rivalry; fill in the ravines dug by indifference and apathy; make straight the paths of our laziness and our compromises.

May the Virgin Mary, who is Mother and knows how to do so, help us to tear down the walls and the obstacles that impede our conversion, that is, our journey toward the encounter with the Lord. He alone, Jesus alone can fulfill all the hopes of man!


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 December 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

In the Gospel given this second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist’s invitation resounds: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 3:2). With these very words, Jesus begins his mission in Galilee (see Mt 4:17); and such will also be the message that the disciples must bring on their first missionary experience (see Mt 10:7). Matthew the evangelist would like to present John as the one who prepares the way of the coming Christ, as well as the disciples as followers, as Jesus preached. It is a matter of the same joyful message: the kingdom of God is at hand! It is near, and it is in us! These words are very important: “The kingdom of God is in our midst,” Jesus says. And John announces what Jesus will say later: “The kingdom of God is at hand, it has arrived, and is in your midst.” This is the central message of every Christian mission. When a missionary goes, a Christian goes to proclaim Jesus, not to proselytize, as if he were a fan trying to drum up new supporters for his team. No, he goes simply to proclaim: “The kingdom of God is in our midst!” And in this way, the missionaries prepare the path for Jesus to encounter the people.

But what is this kingdom of God, this kingdom of heaven? They are synonymous. We think immediately of the afterlife: eternal life. Of course this is true, the kingdom of God will extend without limit beyond earthly life, but the good news that Jesus brings us—and that John predicts—is that we do not need to wait for the kingdom of God in the future: it is at hand. In some way it is already present and we may experience spiritual power from now on. “The kingdom of God is in your midst,” Jesus will say. God comes to establish his lordship in our history, today, every day, in our life; and there—where it is welcomed with faith and humility—love, joy and peace blossom.

The condition for entering and being a part of this kingdom is to implement a change in our life, which is to convert, to convert every day, to take a step forward each day. It is a question of leaving behind the comfortable but misleading ways of the idols of this world: success at all costs; power to the detriment of the weak; the desire for wealth; pleasure at any price. And instead, preparing the way of the Lord: this does not take away our freedom, but gives us true happiness. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God himself who abides among us to free us from self interest, sin and corruption, from these manners of the devil: seeking success at all costs; seeking power to the detriment of the weak; having the desire for wealth; seeking pleasure at any price.

Christmas is a day of great joy, even external, but above all, it is a religious event for which a spiritual preparation is necessary. In this season of Advent, let us be guided by the Baptist’s exhortation: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,” he tells us (v. 3). We prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight when we examine our conscience, when we scrutinize our attitudes, in order to eliminate these sinful manners that I mentioned, which are not from God: success at all costs; power to the detriment of the weak; the desire for wealth; pleasure at any price.

May the Virgin Mary help us to prepare ourselves for the encounter with this ever greater Love, which is what Jesus brings and which, on Christmas night, becomes very very small, like a seed fallen on the soil. And Jesus is this seed: the seed of the kingdom of God

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *


For reflections on the Second Sunday of Advent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


* * * * *

Monday, December 4, 2017

0563: Reflections on the Solemnity of the
Immaculate Conception by Pope Francis



Entry 0563: Reflections on the Solemnity of the 

Immaculate Conception by Pope Francis 


On four occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, on 8 December 2013, 8 December 2014, 8 December 2015, and 8 December 2016. Here are the texts of four brief addresses prior the recitation of the Angelus and a homily delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 8 December 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning,

This second Sunday of Advent falls on the day of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and thus our gaze is drawn to the beauty of the Mother of Jesus, our Mother! With great joy the Church contemplates her “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), and starting with these words we salute her together: “Full of grace!” Let us say it three times: “Full of grace!” Everyone: Full of grace! Full of grace! Full of grace! This is how God saw her from the first moment of his loving design. He saw her as beautiful, full of grace. Our Mother is beautiful! Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, for she teaches us how to live this Advent Season in expectation of the Lord. For this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord, who will visit us all on the feast, but also, each one, in our own hearts. The Lord is coming! Let us wait for him!

The Gospel of Saint Luke presents us with Mary, a girl from Nazareth, a small town in Galilee, in the outskirts of the Roman Empire and on the outskirts of Israel as well. A village. Yet the Lord’s gaze rested on her, on this little girl from that distant village, on the one he had chosen to be the mother of his Son. In view of this motherhood, Mary was preserved from original sin, from that fracture in communion with God, with others and with creation, which deeply wounds every human being. But this fracture was healed in advance in the Mother of the One who came to free us from the slavery of sin. The Immaculata was written in God’s design; she is the fruit of God’s love that saves the world.

And Our Lady never distanced herself from that love: throughout her life her whole being is a “yes” to that love, it is the “yes” to God. But that didn’t make life easy for her! When the Angel calls her “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), she is “greatly troubled” for in her humility she feels she is nothing before God. The Angel consoles her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (v. 30,31). This announcement troubles her even more because she was not yet married to Joseph; but the Angel adds: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (v. 35). Mary listens, interiorly obeys and responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v.38).

The mystery of this girl from Nazareth, who is in the heart of God, is not estranged from us. She is not there and we over here. No, we are connected. Indeed, God rests his loving gaze on every man and every woman! By name and surname. His gaze of love is on every one of us. The Apostle Paul states that God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). We too, from all time, were chosen by God to live a holy life, free of sin. It is a plan of love that God renews every time we come to him, especially through the Sacraments.

On this Solemnity, then, by contemplating our beautiful Immaculate Mother, let us also recognize our truest destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love, to be transformed by the beauty of God. Let us look to her, our Mother, and allow her to look upon us, for she is our mother and she loves us so much; let us allow ourselves to be watched over by her so that we may learn how to be more humble, and also more courageous in following the Word of God; to welcome the tender embrace of her Son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope and peace.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Monday, 8 December 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning! Happy Feast Day!

The message of today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary can be summed up in these words: everything is a free gift from God, everything is grace, everything is a gift out of his love for us. The Angel Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace” (Lk 1:28): in her there is no room for sin, because God chose her from eternity to be the mother of Jesus and preserved her from original sin. And Mary corresponds to the grace and abandons herself, saying to the Angel: “Let it be done to me according to your word” (v. 38). She does not say: “I shall do it according to your word:” no! But: “Let it be done to me.” And the Word was made flesh in her womb. We too are asked to listen to God who speaks to us, and to accept his will; according to the logic of the Gospel nothing is more productive and fruitful than listening to and accepting the Word of the Lord, which comes from the Gospel, from the Bible. The Lord is always speaking to us!

The attitude of Mary of Nazareth shows us that being comes before doing, and to leave the doing to God in order to be truly as he wants us. It is He who works so many marvels in us. Mary is receptive, but not passive. Because, on the physical level, she receives the power of the Holy Spirit and then gives flesh and blood to the Son of God who forms within her. Thus, on the spiritual level, she accepts the grace and corresponds to it with faith. That is why Saint Augustine affirms that the Virgin “conceived in her heart before her womb” (Discourses, 215, 4). She conceived first faith and then the Lord. This mystery of the acceptance of grace, which in Mary, as a unique privilege, was without the obstacle of sin, is a possibility for all. Saint Paul, indeed, opens his Letter to the Ephesians with these words of praise: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (1:3). As Mary was greeted by Saint Elizabeth as “blessed among women” (see Lk 1:42), so too we have always been “blessed,” that is, loved, and thus “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless” (Eph 1:4). Mary was pre-served, while we have been saved thanks to Baptism and to the faith. However, all people, she and we together, through Christ, “to the praise of his glorious grace” (v. 6), with which grace the Immaculata was endowed to the fullest.

Regarding this love, regarding this mercy, the divine grace poured into our hearts, one single thing is asked in return: unreserved giving. Not one of us can buy salvation! Salvation is a free gift of the Lord, a free gift of God that comes within us and dwells in us. As we have received freely, so are we called to give freely (see Mt 10:8); imitating Mary, who, immediately upon receiving the Angel’s announcement, went to share the gift of her fruitfulness with her relative Elizabeth. Because if everything has been given to us, then everything must be passed on. How? By allowing that the Holy Spirit make of us a gift for others. The Spirit is a gift for us and we, by the power of the Spirit, must be a gift for others and allow the Holy Spirit to turn us into instruments of acceptance, instruments of reconciliation, instruments of forgiveness. If our life is allowed to be transformed by the grace of the Lord, for the grace of the Lord does transform us, we will not be able to keep to ourselves the light that comes from his face, but we will let it pass on to enlighten others. Let us learn from Mary, who kept her gaze, constantly fixed on the Son and her face became “the face that looked most like Christ’s” (Dante, Paradiso, XXXII, 87). And to her let us now turn with the prayer that recalls the annunciation of the Angel.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and happy feast day!

Today the Feast of the Immaculate Conception leads us to contemplate Our Lady who, by unique privilege, was preserved from original sin from the very moment of her conception. Even living in a world marked by sin, she was not touched by it: Mary is our sister in suffering, but not in evil or in sin. Instead, evil was conquered in her even before deflowering her, because God had filled her with grace (see Lk 1:28). The Immaculate Conception signifies that Mary is the first one to be saved by the infinite mercy of the Father, which is the first fruit of salvation which God wills to give to every man and woman, in Christ. For this reason the Immaculate One has become the sublime icon of the divine mercy which conquered sin. Today, at the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy, we want to look to this icon with trusting love and to contemplate her in all her splendor, emulating her faith.

In the Immaculate Conception of Mary we are invited to recognize the dawn of the new world, transformed by the salvific work of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The dawn of the new creation brought about by divine mercy. For this reason the Virgin Mary, never infected by sin and always full of God, is the mother of a new humanity. She is the mother of the recreated world.

Celebrating this feast entails two things. First: fully welcoming God and his merciful grace into our life. Second: becoming in our turn artisans of mercy by means of an evangelical journey. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception then becomes the feast of all of us if, with our daily “yes,” we manage to overcome our selfishness and make the life of our brothers ever more glad, to give them hope, by drying a few tears and giving a bit of joy. In imitation of Mary, we are called to become bearers of Christ and witnesses to his love, looking first of all to those who are privileged in the eyes of Jesus. It is they who he himself indicated: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25:35-36).

Today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception has a specific message for us: it reminds us that in our life everything is a gift, it is all mercy. May the Blessed Virgin, first fruit of the saved, model of the Church, Holy and Immaculate Spouse, loved by the Lord, help us to ever increasingly rediscover divine mercy as the distinguishing mark of Christians. One cannot understand a true Christian who is not merciful, just as one cannot comprehend God without his mercy. This is the epitomizing word of the Gospel: mercy. It is the fundamental feature of the face of Christ: that face that we recognize in the various aspects of his existence: when he goes to meet everyone, when he heals the sick, when he sits at the table with sinners, and above all when, nailed to the cross, he forgives; there we see the face of divine mercy. Let us not be afraid: let us allow ourselves to be embraced by the mercy of God who awaits us and forgives all. Nothing is sweeter than his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be caressed by God: the Lord is so good, and he forgives all.

Through the intercession of Immaculate Mary, may mercy take possession of our hearts and transform our whole life.


BEGINNING OF THE EXTRAORDINARY JUBILEE OF MERCY

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Saint Peter’s Square, Tuesday, 8 December 2015

In a few moments I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door of Mercy. We carry out this act—as I did in Bangui—so simple yet so highly symbolic, in the light of the word of God which we have just heard. That word highlights the primacy of grace. Again and again these readings make us think of the words by which the angel Gabriel told an astonished young girl of the mystery which was about to enfold her: “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28).

The Virgin Mary was called to rejoice above all because of what the Lord accomplished in her. God’s grace enfolded her and made her worthy of becoming the Mother of Christ. When Gabriel entered her home, even the most profound and impenetrable of mysteries became for her a cause for joy, a cause for faith, a cause for abandonment to the message revealed to her. The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love. Not only does he forgive sin, but in Mary he even averts the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into this world. This is the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves. The beginning of the history of sin in the Garden of Eden yields to a plan of saving love. The words of Genesis reflect our own daily experience: we are constantly tempted to disobedience, a disobedience expressed in wanting to go about our lives without regard for God’s will. This is the enmity which keeps striking at people’s lives, setting them in opposition to God’s plan. Yet the history of sin can only be understood in the light of God’s love and forgiveness. Sin can only be understood in this light. Were sin the only thing that mattered, we would be the most desperate of creatures. But the promised triumph of Christ’s love enfolds everything in the Father’s mercy. The word of God which we have just heard leaves no doubt about this. The Immaculate Virgin stands before us as a privileged witness of this promise and its fulfilment.

This Extraordinary Year is itself a gift of grace. To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them. It is he who seeks us! It is he who comes to encounter us! This will be a year in which we grow ever more convinced of God’s mercy. How much wrong we do to God and his grace when we speak of sins being punished by his judgment before we speak of their being forgiven by his mercy (see Saint Augustine, De Praedestinatione Sanctorum, 12, 24)! But that is the truth. We have to put mercy before judgment, and in any event God’s judgement will always be in the light of his mercy. In passing through the Holy Door, then, may we feel that we ourselves are part of this mystery of love, of tenderness. Let us set aside all fear and dread, for these do not befit men and women who are loved. Instead, let us experience the joy of encountering that grace which transforms all things.

Today, here in Rome and in all the dioceses of the world, as we pass through the Holy Door, we also want to remember another door, which fifty years ago the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council opened to the world. This anniversary cannot be remembered only for the legacy of the Council’s documents, which testify to a great advance in faith. Before all else, the Council was an encounter. A genuine encounter between the Church and the men and women of our time. An encounter marked by the power of the Spirit, who impelled the Church to emerge from the shoals which for years had kept her self-enclosed so as to set out once again, with enthusiasm, on her missionary journey. It was the resumption of a journey of encountering people where they live: in their cities and homes, in their workplaces. Wherever there are people, the Church is called to reach out to them and to bring the joy of the Gospel, and the mercy and forgiveness of God. After these decades, we again take up this missionary drive with the same power and enthusiasm. The Jubilee challenges us to this openness, and demands that we not neglect the spirit which emerged from Vatican II, the spirit of the Samaritan, as Blessed Paul VI expressed it at the conclusion of the Council. May our passing through the Holy Door today commit us to making our own the mercy of the Good Samaritan.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Thursday, 8 December 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy feast day!

The readings for today’s Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary present two crucial passages in the history of the relationship between man and God: we could say that they lead us towards the origin of good and evil. These two passages lead us to the origin of good and evil.

The Book of Genesis shows us the first no, the original “no,” the human “no,” when man preferred to gaze upon himself rather than on his Creator; he wanted to go his own way, and chose to be self-sufficient. However, in so doing, forsaking communion with God, he lost his own self and began to fear, to hide himself and to accuse those who were close by (see Gen 3:10, 12). These are symptoms: fear is always a symptom of a “no” to God, and indicates that I am saying “no” to God; accusing others and not looking at ourselves indicates that I am distancing myself from God. This is the sin. Yet, the Lord does not leave man at the mercy of his sin; immediately He looks for him, and asks a question that is full of apprehension: “Where are you?” (v. 9). It is as if He is saying: “Stop, think: where are you?” It is the question of a father or a mother looking for a lost child: “Where are you? What situation have you gotten yourself into?” And God does this with great patience, to the point of bridging the gap which arose from the origin. This is one of the passages.

The second crucial passage, recounted today in the Gospel, is when God comes to live among us, becomes man like us. And this was made possible through a great “yes”—that of the sin was the “no;” this is the “yes,” it is a great “yes”—that of Mary at the moment of the Annunciation. Because of this “yes” Jesus began his journey along the path of humanity; he began it in Mary, spending the first months of life in his mother’s womb: he did not appear as a man, grown and strong, but he followed the journey of a human being. He was made equal to us in every way, except one thing, that “no.” Except sin. For this reason, he chose Mary, the only creature without sin, immaculate. In the Gospel, with one word only, she is called “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), that is, filled with grace. It means that, in her, full of grace from the start, there is no space for sin. And when we turn to her, we too recognize this beauty: we invoke her, “full of grace,” without a shadow of evil.

Mary responds to God’s proposal by saying: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (v. 38). She does not say: “Well, this time I will do God’s will; I will make myself available, then I will see.” No. Hers is a full, total “yes,” for her entire life, without conditions. And just as the original “no” closed the passage between man and God, so Mary’s “yes” opened the path to God among us. It is the most important “yes” in history, the humble “yes” which reverses the prideful original “no,” the faithful “yes” that heals disobedience, the willing “yes” that overturns the vanity of sin.

For each of us too, there is a history of salvation made up of “yeses” and “nos.” Sometimes, though, we are experts in the half-hearted “yes:” we are good at pretending not to understand what God wants and what our conscience suggests. We are also crafty and so as not to say a true “no” to God, we say: “Sorry, I can’t;” “not today, I think tomorrow.” “Tomorrow I’ll be better; tomorrow I will pray, I will do good tomorrow.” And this cunning leads us away from the “yes.” It distances us from God and leads us to “no,” to the sinful “no,” to the “no” of mediocrity. The famous “yes, but …;” “yes, Lord, but ...” In this way we close the door to goodness, and evil takes advantage of these omitted “yeses.” Each of us has a collection of them within. Think about it: we will find many omitted “yeses.” Instead, every complete “yes” to God gives rise to a new story: to say “yes” to God is truly “original.” It is the origin, not the sin, that makes us old on the inside. Have you thought about this, that sin makes us old on the inside? It makes us grow old quickly! Every “yes” to God gives rise to stories of salvation for us and for others. Like Mary with her own “yes.” In this Advent journey, God wishes to visit us and awaits our “yes.” Let’s think: I, today, what “yes” must I say to God? Let’s think about it; it will do us good. And we will find the Lord’s voice in God, who asks something of us: a step forward. “I believe in you; I hope in you. I love you; be it done to me according to your good will.” This is the “yes.” With generosity and trust, like Mary, let us say today, each of us, this personal “yes” to God

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana


* * * * *


For reflections on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


* * * * *