Sunday, December 15, 2019

Angelus with blessing of statuettes

At noon today local time (6:00am EST), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study inside the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims who were gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

On this III Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday), children from the Roman Oratory Centre (COR), from various parishes and families in Rome were present for the blessing of the Bambinelli (statuettes of the child Jesus for their manger scenes).

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

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

On this third Sunday of Advent, called the Sunday of joy, the Word of God invites us on one hand to joy and on the other to an awareness of the fact that existence also includes moments of doubt, in which it is hard to believe.  Joy and doubt are both experiences that are part of our lives.

In contrast to the explicit invitation to the joy of the prophet Isaiah: Let the desert and the dry land rejoice, let the steppe rejoice and flourish (Is 35:1), John the Baptist's doubt appears in the Gospel: Are you the one who must come or should we wait for another? (Mt 11:3). In fact, the prophet sees beyond the situation: he has before him discouraged people: weak hands, shaky knees, lost hearts (cf Is 35:3-4). This is the same reality that tests faith at all times. But the man of God looks beyond, because the Holy Spirit makes it possible for his heart to feel the power of his promise, and he proclaims salvation: Courage, do not fear! Behold your God, ... He comes to save you (Is 35:4). And then everything is transformed: the desert blooms, consolation and joy take possession of those who have lost heart, the lame, the blind and the mute are healed (cf Is 35:5-6). This is what is accomplished with Jesus: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the Gospel is announced to the poor (Mt 11:5).

This description shows us that salvation envelops the whole of mankind and regenerates him. But this new birth, with the joy that accompanies it, always presupposes a dying to ourselves and to the sin that is in us. Hence the call to conversion, which is the basis of the preaching of both the Baptist and Jesus; in particular, it is a question of converting the idea we have of God. And the season of Advent encourages us to do so precisely with the question that John the Baptist asks Jesus: Are you the one who is to come or must we wait for another? (Mt 11:3). We think: for his whole life John had been waiting for the Messiah; his lifestyle, his own body was shaped by this expectation. This was also why Jesus praised him with these words: no one is greater than he who was born of a woman (cf Mt 11:11). And yet, he too had to convert to Jesus. Like John, we too are called to recognize the face that God has chosen to assume in Jesus Christ, humble and merciful.

Advent is a time of grace. It tells us that it is not enough to believe in God: we need to purify our faith every day. It is a matter of preparing to welcome not a fairy-tale character, but the God who calls us, involves us and before whom a choice is imposed. The Child who is lying in the crib has the face of our most needy brothers and sisters, the face of the poor who are the privileged of this mystery and, often, those who are most able to recognize the presence of God in our midst (Apostolic Letter, Admirabile signum, 6).

May the Virgin Mary help us, as we draw closer to Christmas, not to allow ourselves to be distracted by external things, but to make space in our hearts for the One who has already come and who wishes to come again to heal our illnesses and to give us joy.

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

Dear brothers and sisters!

I greet all of you, families, parish groups and associations, who have come to Rome from Italy and from many other parts of the world.  In particular, I greet the pilgrims from Korea, from Valencia and the group from Rotzo (VI).

I greet you, dear children, who have come with the little statues of the baby Jesus for your manger scenes.  Raise up the statues!  I willingly bless them: The crib is like a living Gospel ... While we contemplate the Christmas scene, we are invited to set out spiritually on the way, attracted by the humility of Jesus, God, the One who became man in order to meet each of us. And we discover that he loves us so much that he joins us, so that we too can unite with him (cf Apostolic Letter, Admirabile signum, 1).

In less than a year, from 13 to 20 September 2020, the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress will be held in Budapest. For more than a century, Eucharistic Congresses continue to remind us that the Eucharist is at the centre of the Church's life. The theme of the next Congress will be "All my hopes are in you (Ps 87:7). We pray that the Eucharistic event in Budapest may favour renewal processes in the Christian communities (Speech to the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, 10 November 2018).

And I wish all of you a good Sunday and a good Christmas Novena.  You children, take your little statuettes home for your manger scenes and, please, don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye.
Testo originale nella lingua italiana

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