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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Angelus for the Fourth Sunday

At noon today, the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square for the usual Sunday appointment.

Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's liturgy, which is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, is characterized by the theme of closeness, the closeness of God to humanity.  The gospel passage (cf Mt 1:18-24) shows us two persons, the two people who more than any others were involved in this mystery of love: the Virgin Mary and her spouse Joseph.  A mystery of love, a mystery of the closeness of God to humanity.

Mary is presented in the light of the prophecy that says: Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son (Mt 1:23).  The evangelist Matthew recognizes that this has taken place in Mary, the one who conceived Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit (cf Mt 1:18).  The Son of God comes in her womb, in order to become man and she welcomes him.  Therefore, in a unique way, God drew close to the human person, taking on flesh through a woman: God came close to us and took on flesh through a woman.  Also to us, in a different way, God comes close with his grace to enter into our lives and to offer us the gift of his Son.  And what do we do?  Do we welcome him, do we allow him to come close or do we push him away, tell him to leave us alone?  Like Mary, who offered herself freely to the Lord in history, giving him permission to change the destiny of all mankind, we too, by welcoming Jesus and seeking to follow him every day, can cooperate with his plan of salvation for us and for the world.  Mary opened herself as a model to whom we can look for support; we can rely on her to help us look for God, to help us stay close to God, to teach us how to let God come close to us, and to help us remain committed to building a civilization of love.

The other hero of today's gospel is Joseph.  The evangelist points out how Joseph, on his own, cannot explain the events that he sees taking place before his very eyes, Mary's pregnancy.  Just then, in that moment of doubt, even of anguish, God comes close to him - and to us - with his messenger who comes to inform him as to the nature of this pregnancy: The child has been created with her by the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:20).  So, faced by this extraordinary event, which certainly stirred up many questions in his heart, he confided himself entirely to God who came close to him and, following his invitation, did not revoke the promise he had made to marry Mary, but rather he took her and married her.  Welcoming Mary, Joseph also consciously and willingly welcomed the One who had been conceived within her through a wonderful work of God, for whom nothing is impossible.  Joseph, a humble and a just man (cf Mt 1:19), teaches us to always trust in God with obedience that is freely given.

These two figures, Mary and Joseph, who were the first to accept Jesus in faith, introduce us to the mystery of Christmas.  Mary helps us to put ourselves in the frame of mind to welcome the Son of God into our lives in a concrete way, in our flesh.  Joseph encourages us to always seek God's will and to follow it with full confidence.  Both of them allowed themselves to draw close to God.

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall give him the name Emmanuel, which means God-with-us (Mt 1:23).  The angel says: The child shall be called Emmanuel, which means God-with-us; in other words, God close to us.  As God comes close, do I open the door - to the Lord - when I sense an interior inspiration, when I sense that he is calling me to do something more for others, when he calls me to pray?  God-with-us, God who comes close.  This proclamation of hope, which takes place at Christmas, brings to completion all that God awaits even in each of us, in the whole Church, and in every little one who is despised by the world, but who God loves and to whom he comes close.

Following the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I greet you all, faithful of Rome and pilgrims who have come from various other countries, families, parish groups and associations.

I ask you all to pray that the dialogue now taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo will develop with serenity and be able to avoid any kind of violence and work toward the good of the entire country.

I especially greet the large group from UNITALSI.  What good work you are doing, thank you very much! You have given birth to a living nativity including disabled people, as well as students from the Calabrese Institute of International Politics.

I wish to thank all the people and institutions who sent birthday wishes to me yesterday.  Thank you very much!

I wish you all a good Sunday: it is a beautiful day!

Next Sunday, we will celebrate Christmas.  During this week - I suggest - let us try to find a few moments to be quiet, spend a bit of time in silence, and imagine the Madonna and Saint Joseph who were travelling to Bethlehem.  Imagine them making their way: the journey, their tiredness, but also their joy, their emotion, and then their anxiety to find a place, their preoccupations ... and so on.  The crib scene will help you to do this.  Let us try to enter into the truth of Christmas, the truth of Jesus, who came close to us - God-with-us, close to us - to receive the grace of this feast, which is the grace of closeness, love, humility and tenderness.

And also, while you do this, remember to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!
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