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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Angelus with lessons from the Baptist

At noon today (Rome time), 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.

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

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

At the centre of today's gospel (Jn 1:29-34), there is a word spoken by John the Baptist: There is the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world! (Jn 1:29).  A word accompanied by a look and a gesture with his hand indicating Him, Jesus.

We imagine the scene.  We are on the banks of the river Jordan.  John is baptizing; there are many people, men and women of various ages, who have come there, to the river, to receive baptism from the hands of this man who for many is a reminder of Elijah, the great prophet who, nine centuries before, had purified the Israelites from idolatry and had led us back to the true faith in the God of the covenant, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob.

John preached that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, that the Messiah was about to show himself and they needed to prepare themselves, to change their ways, to act with justice; and he began to baptize people in the Jordan in order to give people a concrete means of doing penance (cf Mt 3:1-6).  These people came in order to repent for their sins, to start life anew.  He knew, John knew that the Messiah, the Lord's Anointed One was very close, and the sign to recognize him would be that the Holy Spirit would descend upon him; in fact, He would bring the true baptism, baptism in the Holy Spirit (cf Jn 1:33).

And behold the moment arrived: Jesus presented himself on the banks of the river, amidst the people, among sinners - like all of us.  And his first public act, the first thing that he did when he left his home in Nazareth at the age of thirty-three years: was to go down to Judea, to the Jordan and to be baptized by John.  We know what happened - we celebrated it last Sunday: the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father proclaimed him to be his beloved Son (cf Mt 3:16-17).  This was the sign that John was waiting for.  It was Him!  Jesus is the Messiah.  John was baffled, because it took place in an unthinkable way: in the midst of sinners, baptized like them, in fact, for them.  But the Spirit illuminated John and helped him to understand that this is the way that God's justice was to be accomplished, his plan of salvation: Jesus is the Messiah, the King of Israel, but not with the power of this world, rather as the Lamb of god who takes upon himself and takes away the sin of the world.

This is how John showed him to the people and to his disciples.  John had a great following of disciples, who had chosen him as their spiritual guide, and some of them eventually would become the first disciples of Jesus.  We know their names very well: Simon, called Peter; his brother Andrew; James and his brother John.  They were all fishermen; they were all Galileans, just like Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, why have we focused for such a long time on this scene?  Because it is decisive!  It is not an anecdote.  It is a truly decisive story!  This scene is decisive for our faith; and it is also important for the mission of the Church.  The Church, in every age, is called to what John the Baptist did, to point out Jesus to others by saying to them: There is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!  He is our only Saviour!  He is the Lord, humble, in the midst of sinners, but it is Him, Him: there is no other, he is strong, he came: no, no, it is He!

And these re the words that we priests repeat every day, during the Mass, when we present the bread and wine that have become the Body and Blood of Christ to the people.  This liturgical gesture represents all the Church's work, she does not announce herself.   Woe to us, woe to us if the Church were to proclaim herself; we would have lost our compass, we would not know where we were going!  The Church proclaims Christ: she does not proclaim herself, she proclaims Christ because it is He and only He who saves his people from sin, frees us and guides us to the land of true liberty.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Lamb of God, help us to believe in Him and to follow Him.

After the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today we celebrate the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, dedicated to the theme: Under-aged Migrants, those who are vulnerable and those who have no voice.  Our little friends, especially those who are unaccompanied, are exposed to many perils.  And I say to you that there are many!  We must take every possible measure to guarantee the protection and defence of under-aged migrants, and we must attend to their integration.

I offer a special greeting to the representatives of various ethnic communities gathered here.  Dear friends, I hope that you will be able to live in serenity in the places that welcome you, respecting the laws and traditions and, at the same time, maintaining the values of your cultures of origin.  The encounter of various cultures is always an opportunity for the enrichment of all!  I thank the Office of Migrants of the Diocese of Rome and all those who are working with migrants to welcome and accompany them in their difficulties, and to encourage and follow them in this work, remembering the example that was set by Saint Frances Saverio Cabrini, patroness of migrants; this year we are marking the centenary of her death.  This courageous Sister dedicated her life to sharing the love of Christ with all those who were far distant from their countries and their families.  Her witness helps us to take care of our itinerant brothers, in whom Jesus is present, often in those who are suffering, refugees and those who are humiliated.  Many times in the bible, the Lord asks us to welcome migrants and strangers, remember that we too were once strangers!

I affectionately greet all of you, dear faithful who have come from various parishes throughout Italy and from other countries, as well as associations and various groups.  In particular, the students from the Meléndez Valdés Institute from Villafranca de los Barros in Spain.

I wish you all a good Sunday; enjoy your lunch.  And, please, don't forget to pray for me.  Thank you!
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