Wednesday, December 18, 2019

General Audience on a domestic gospel

This morning's General Audience began at 9:15am local time (3:15am EST) in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican.  The Holy Father, Pope Francis met there with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: The manger, a domestic gospel (Lk 2:15-16).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In one week, it will be Christmas!  During these days, while we are running to complete our preparations for this feast, we can ask ourselves: How am I preparing for the birth of the One who is being celebrated? A simple but effective way to prepare is to set up the manger scene. This year, I  too followed this route: I went to Greccio, where Saint Francis assembled the first nativity scene, with the locals. And I wrote a letter to remember the meaning of this tradition, what does the crib mean at Christmas time.

In fact, the crib is like a living Gospel (Admirabile signum, 1). Bring the Gospel to the places where you live: in homes, schools, workplaces and meeting places, in hospitals and nursing homes, in prisons and in squares. And where we live reminds us of one essential thing: that God did not remain invisible in heaven, but came to Earth, he became man, a child. Assembling the crib is celebrating God's closeness. God has always been close to his people, but when he was made incarnate and born, he was very close, very close. Assembling the crib is celebrating God's closeness, it is rediscovering the fact that God is real, concrete, alive and palpitating. God is not a distant lord or a detached judge, but he is humble Love, descended to us. The Child in the crib gives us his tenderness. Some statues depict the Bambinello (the baby Jesus) with open arms, to tell us that God has come to embrace our humanity. It is nice to be in front of the crib and there to trust in the life of the Lord, to talk to him about the people and situations we care about, to make an examination of the year that is ending with him, to share our expectations and concerns.

Next to Jesus we see Our Lady and Saint Joseph. We can imagine the thoughts and feelings they had while the Child was born in poverty: joy, but also dismay. And we can also invite the Holy Family to our home, where there are joys and worries, where every day we wake up, eat and sleep close to our loved ones. The crib is a domestic Gospel. The word crib literally means manger, while the city of the crib, Bethlehem, means house of bread. Manger and house of bread: the crib we assemble at home, where we share food and affections, reminds us that Jesus is nourishment, the bread of life (cf Jn 6:34). It is He who feeds our love, it is He who gives our families the strength to go on and to forgive.

The crib offers us another lesson in life. In today's frenetic rhythms it is an invitation to contemplation. It reminds us of the importance of stopping. Because only when we know how to gather, can we welcome what matters in life. Only if we leave the noise of the world outside of ourselves, do we open ourselves to listening to God who speaks in silence. The crib is current, it is the representation of every family. Yesterday, they gave me a little picture of a special crib, a little one, which was called: Let mom rest. There was the sleeping Madonna and Joseph with the baby Jesus there, who was sleeping. How many of you spend the night between husband and wife tending to a child or to children who cries, cries, cries. Let mother rest is the tenderness of a family, of a marriage.

The crib is more relevant than ever, while every day many weapons and so many violent images are seen in the world, images that enter the eyes and the heart. Instead, the crib is a handcrafted image of peace. This is why it is a living Gospel.

Dear brothers and sisters, from the crib we can finally grasp a teaching on the very meaning of life. We see daily scenes: the shepherds with the sheep, blacksmiths who beat iron, millers who make bread; at times landscapes and situations of our territories are also inserted. It is right, because the crib reminds us that Jesus comes into our concrete life. And, this is important.  We should make a small crib at home, always, because it is the memory that God came to us, he was born for us, he accompanies us in life, he is a man like us, he became a man like us.

In everyday life we are no longer alone, Jesus lives with us. He does not magically change things but, if we welcome him, everything can change. I wish you then that assembling the crib may provide an opportunity to invite Jesus into your life. When we assemble the crib at home, it is like opening the door and saying: Jesus, come in!; it is making this closeness concrete, inviting Jesus to come into our lives. Because if He lives our life, life is reborn. And if life is reborn, it's really Christmas. Merry Christmas to all of you!
Testo originale nella lingua italiana

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages, and His Holiness offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking visitors, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Canada and the United States of America. I wish all of you a very blessed Christmas, and I thank those people everywhere who have sent me their congratulations and good wishes for my fiftieth ordination anniversary and for my birthday. I thank you in a particular way for the gift of your prayers.

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