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Advent 2016

Pope Francis's words at the Angelus on the 1st Sunday of Advent
27 November 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today in the Church a new liturgical year begins, which is a new journey of faith for the People of God. And as always, we begin with Advent. The passage of the Gospel (cf Mt 24, 37-44) introduces us to one of the most evocative themes of Advent: the visit of the Lord to humanity. The first visit — we all know — occurred with the Incarnation, Jesus’ birth in the cave of Bethlehem; the second takes place in the present: the Lord visits us constantly, each day, walking alongside us and being a consoling presence; in the end, there will be the third, the last visit, which we proclaim each time that we recite the Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. Today, the Lord speaks to us about this final visit, which will take place at the end of time, and he tells us where we will arrive on our journey.

The Word of God emphasizes the contrast between the normal unfolding of events, the everyday routine, and the unexpected coming of the Lord. Jesus says: “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away” (v 38-39): so says Jesus. It always strikes a cord when we think about the hours which precede a great disaster: everyone is calm, and they go about their usual business without realizing that their lives are about to be turned upside down. Of course, the Gospel does not want to scare us but to open our horizons to another, greater dimension, one which, on the one hand, puts into perspective everyday things, while at the same time making them precious, crucial. The relationship with the God-who-comes-to-visit-us gives every gesture, every thing a different light, a substance, a symbolic value.

From this perspective there also comes an invitation to sobriety, to not be controlled by the things of this world, by material reality, but rather to govern them. If, by contrast, we allow ourselves to be influenced and overpowered by these things, we cannot perceive that there is something very important: our final encounter with the Lord: this is important. That encounter. And everyday matters must have this horizon, and must be directed to that horizon. This encounter with the Lord who comes for us. In that moment, as the Gospel says, “Then two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left” (v 40). It is an invitation to be vigilant, because in not knowing when he will come, we need to be ever ready to leave.

In this season of Advent, we are called to expand the horizons of our hearts, to be amazed by the life which presents itself each day with newness. In order to do this, we must learn to not depend on our own certainties, on our own established strategies, because the Lord comes at a time that we do not imagine. He comes to bring us into a more beautiful and grand dimension.

May Our Lady, the Virgin of Advent, help us not to consider ourselves proprietors of our life, not to resist when the Lord comes to change it, but to be ready to let ourselves be visited by him, the awaited and welcome guest, even if it disturbs our plans."

After the Angelus:

"Dear brothers and sisters, I wish to assure my prayers for the peoples of Central America, especially Costa Rica and Nicaragua, which have been struck by a hurricane and the latter also by a powerful earthquake. And I also pray for those in northern Italy who are suffering from floods.

I greet all of you pilgrims who have come from Italy and various countries: families, parish groups, associations. I especially greet the faithful coming from Lebanon, Egypt, Slovakia, and the choir of Limburg, Germany. I affectionately greet the Ecuadorian community present here; the families of the Tra Noi (“Among Us”) Movement; groups from Altamura, Rieti, San Casciano in Val di Pesa; UNITALSI [National Italian Union of Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines] of Capaccio, and the students of Bacheria.

I wish all of you a happy Sunday, and a good Advent journey to encounter the Lord. May it be a time of hope: to encounter the Lord who comes to encounter us; true hope, founded on God’s fidelity, and on our responsibility. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch. Arrivederci!"

Pope Francis's words at the Angelus on the 2nd Sunday of Advent
4 December 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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 (cf Mt 4, 17); and such will also be the message that the disciples must bring on their first missionary experience (cf 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."

After the Angelus:

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, I extend my greetings to you, Romans and pilgrims!
I greet in particular, the faithful from Cordoba, Jaén and Valencia, Spain; from Split and Makarska, Croatia; from the parishes of Saint Mary of the Oration and the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ in Rome.

I wish you all a blessed Sunday and a good Advent journey, to prepare the way of the Lord, by converting each day.

We will see each other on Thursday for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. In these days, we pray together asking her maternal intercession for the conversion of hearts and the gift of peace.

And please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. See you Thursday!"

Pope Francis's words at the Angelus on the 3rd Sunday of Advent
11 December 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"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 inmost 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 (cf 35, 1); the Prophet has before him weak hands, feeble knees, fearful hearts, people who are blind, deaf and dumb (cf v 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” (cf Is 35, 4). And straight away everything is transformed: the desert blooms, comfort and joy permeate hearts (cf v 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."

After the Angelus:

"Dear brothers and sisters, every day I am close to the people of Aleppo, above all in prayer. We must not forget that Aleppo is a city, that there are people there: families, children, elderly, sick people.... Sadly we have now become accustomed to the war, to the destruction, but we must not forget that Syria is a country full of history, culture and faith. We cannot accept that this is denied by war, which is an aggregation of oppression and untruth. I appeal to everyone for the commitment to make a civilized choice: say ‘no’ to destruction, ‘yes’ to peace, ‘yes’ to the people of Aleppo and of Syria.

Let us also pray for the victims of several brutal terrorist attacks which have struck various countries in recent hours. The places are different, but sadly the violence which sows death and destruction is unique. Unique too is the response: faith in God and unity in human and civil values. I would like to express particular closeness to my dear brother Pope Tawadros II [Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church] and to his community, in praying for the dead and the wounded.

Today in Vientiane, Laos, Mario Borzaga, a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Paolo Thoj Xyooj, a faithful lay catechist, and 14 companions killed in hatred of the faith shall be declared Blessed. May their heroic faithfulness to Christ be an encouragement and an example to missionaries and especially to catechists, who in mission lands carry out a valuable and irreplaceable apostolic work, for which the Church is grateful to them. Let us also think of our catechists: they do so much work, such beautiful work! Being a catechist is a beautiful thing: it is bringing the Lord’s message so that it may grow in us. A round of applause for catechists, everyone!

I warmly greet all of you, dear pilgrims from various countries. Today the first greeting is reserved for the children and youth from Rome, who have come for the traditional blessing of the “Baby Jesus” [statuettes], organized by the parish oratories and by the Catholic schools of Rome. Dear boys and girls, when you pray before your Nativity scene with your parents, ask Baby Jesus to help us all to remember to love God and neighbour. Remember to pray for me too, as I remember you. Thank you.

I greet the professors of the Catholic University of Sydney, the choir of the Monastery of Grijó in Portugal, the faithful of Barbianello and Campobasso.

I wish everyone a happy Sunday. Do not forget to pray for me. And I would like to say something to the children and youth: we want to hear your song! Arrivederci! Enjoy your lunch! Sing!"

Pope Francis's words at the Angelus on the 4th Sunday of Advent
18 December 2016, St Peter's Square - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian & Portuguese 

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
The liturgy for today, the fourth and last Sunday of Advent, is characterized by the theme of closeness, God’s closeness to humanity. The Gospel passage (cf Mt 1, 18-24) shows us two people, the two people who more than anyone else were involved in this mystery of love: the Virgin Mary and her husband, Joseph. A mystery of love, the mystery of God’s closeness to humanity.

Mary is presented in the light of the prophet who says: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (v 23). Matthew the Evangelist recognizes that this happened in Mary, who conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit (cf v 18). The Son of God “comes” into her womb in order to become man, and she welcomes him. Thus, in a unique way, God drew near to mankind, taking on flesh through a woman: God drew near to us and took on flesh through a woman. To us too, in a different way, God draws near with his grace in order to enter our life and offer us the gift of his Son. What do we do? Do we welcome him, let him draw near, or do we reject him, push him away? As Mary, freely offering herself to the Lord of history, allowed him to change the destiny of mankind, so too can we, by welcoming Jesus and seeking to follow him each day, cooperate in his salvific plan for us and for the world. Mary thus appears to us as a model to look to and upon whose support we can count in our search for God, in our closeness to God, in thus allowing God to draw close to us and in our commitment to build the culture of love.

The other protagonist of today’s Gospel is Saint Joseph. The Evangelist highlights that alone, Joseph cannot explain to himself the event which he sees taking place before his eyes, namely, Mary’s pregnancy. Just then, in that moment of doubt, even anguish, God approaches him — him too — through his messenger and Joseph is enlightened about the nature of this maternity: “the child conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (cf v 20). Thus, in facing this extraordinary event, which surely gave rise to many questions in his heart, he trusts totally in God who has drawn near to him, and after his invitation, does not repudiate his betrothed, but takes her to him and takes Mary to wife. In accepting Mary, Joseph knowingly and lovingly receives Him who has been conceived in her through the wondrous work of God, for whom nothing is impossible. Joseph, a just and humble man (cf v 19), teaches us to always trust in God, who draws near to us: when God approaches us, we must entrust ourselves to him. Joseph teaches us to allow ourselves to be guided by Him with willing obedience.

These two figures, Mary and Joseph, who were the first to welcome Jesus through faith, introduce us to the mystery of Christmas. Mary helps us to assume an attitude of openness in order to welcome the Son of God into our concrete life, in our flesh. Joseph spurs us to always seek God’s will and to follow it with full trust. Both allow God to draw near to them.

“‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’, which means, God-with-us” (Mt 1, 23). Thus the angel says: “the child shall be called Emmanuel, which means God-with-us”, in other words, God near to us. And to God who draws near, do I open the door — to the Lord — when I sense an interior inspiration, when I hear him ask me to do something more for others, when he calls me to pray?

God-with-us, God who draws near. This message of hope, which is fulfilled at Christmas, leads to fulfilment of the expectation of God in each one of us too, in all the Church, and in the many little ones whom the world scorns, but whom God also loves and to whom God draws near."

After the Angelus:

"Dear brothers and sisters, I greet everyone, the faithful of Rome and pilgrims from other countries, families, parish groups and associations.

I ask all of you to pray that the dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo may unfold peacefully so as to avoid all types of violence and for the good of the entire country.

I would like to thank all the people and institutions who expressed their best wishes to me yesterday. Thank you very much!

I wish everyone a happy Sunday. The weather is beautiful. Next Sunday will be Christmas. This week — I ask — let us try to find a few moments to stop, be silent, and imagine Our Lady and Saint Joseph who are on their way to Bethlehem. Imagine how they travel: the journey, the hardships, but also the joy, the emotion, and their distress at finding no room, the worrying..., and so on. In this the Nativity helps us a great deal. Let us try to partake of the true Christmas, that of Jesus, who draws near to us — God-with-us, close to us — in order to receive the grace of this celebration, which is a grace of closeness, love, humility and tenderness.

In those moments, remember also to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!"