December 11, 2016. “We are called to rediscover the taste of this joy, the taste of true joy. It is a joy that reaches the intimacy of our being”.
Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent, marked by St. Paul’s invitation: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5). It is not a superficial or purely emotional joy that the Apostle exhorts us to. It’s also not worldly, or this joy of consumerism. No, no, it’s not that. It’s a joy that is more authentic; we are called to rediscover the taste of this joy, the taste of true joy. It is a joy that reaches the intimacy of our being, as we await Jesus, who has already come to bring salvation to the world, the promised Messiah, born in Bethlehem to the Virgin Mary.
The Liturgy of the Word offers us the proper context to understand and live this joy.
Isaiah speaks of the desert, of the parched land, of the steppe (cf. 35:1); the prophet has before him feeble hands, weak knees, frightened hearts, the blind, the deaf and the mute (cf vs. 3-6). It is the picture of a desolate situation, of the inexorable destination when God is lacking.
But finally, salvation is proclaimed: Be strong, fear not!, says the prophet. Here is your God … he comes to save you (vs 4). And immediately, everything is transformed: The desert blooms, joy and gladness fill hearts (cf vs. 5-6). These signs announced by Isaiah as revelations of a salvation already present, are fulfilled in Jesus.
He himself affirms this responding to the messengers sent by John the Baptist. What does Jesus say to these messengers? “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (Mt 11:5). They are not words, they are facts that show how the salvation brought by Jesus grips every human being and regenerates him. God has entered into history to liberate us from the slavery of sin; he has placed his dwelling in our midst to share our existence, to heal our scars, to bandage our wounds and give us new life. Joy is the fruit of this intervention of salvation and of the love of God.
We are called to participate in the sentiment of jubilation, this jubilation, this joy. A Christian who is not joyful — something is missing in this Christian, or he is not a Christian. The joy of the heart, the joy within that brings us forward and gives us courage. The Lord comes, he comes to our lives as the liberator, he comes to free us from all interior and exterior slaveries. He is the one who indicates to us the path of fidelity, of patience and of perseverance, because, at his arrival, our joy shall be complete.
Christmas is near. The signs of its coming are evident on our streets and in our homes. Also here in the Square, the nativity scene has been set up, and at its side, the tree. These external signs invite us to welcome the Lord who always comes and knocks at our door; he calls to our heart to come close. He invites us to recognize his steps among those of our brothers and sisters who pass beside us, especially the weakest and most needy.
Today we are invited to be joyful at the imminent arrival of our Redeemer; and we are called to share this joy with others, giving consolation and hope to the poor, to the sick, to those who are lonely or unhappy.
May the Virgin Mary, the “handmaid of the Lord,” help us to hear the voice of God in prayer and to serve him with compassion in our brothers, to arrive to Christmas prepared, preparing our hearts to welcome Jesus.
[Angelus; after the Angelus, the Holy Father added:]
Dear brothers and sisters,
Every day I am close, above all in prayer, to the people of Aleppo. We should not forget that Aleppo is a city. That there are people there: families, children, elderly, sick people … Lamentably, we have already grown accustomed to the war, to the destruction, but we should not forget that Syria is a country full of history, of culture, of faith. We cannot accept that all of this be negated by war, which is a knot of the abuse of power and of falsehood. I make a call to everyone to commit, so that there might be a choice for civilization: no to destruction, yes to peace, yes to the people of Aleppo and of Syria.
And we pray as well for the victims of some brutal terrorist attacks that in the last few hours have struck various countries. There are various places but unfortunately the violence that sows death and destruction is one and the same. And one and the same, too, is the response: faith in God and unity in human and social values.
I would like to express a special closeness to my dear brother Pope Tawadros II and his community; I am praying for the dead and the wounded.
Today in Vientiane, in Laos, will be the beatification of Mario Borzaga, a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Immaculate Mary, Paul Thoj Xyooj, a faithful lay catechist, and 14 companions, killed in hatred of the faith. Their heroic fidelity to Christ can be an encouragement and an example for missionaries, and especially for catechists, who in missionary lands carry out a valuable and irreplaceable apostolic work, for which the whole Church is thankful. Let us think of our catechists — they do a lot of work, good work — to be a catechist is something very beautiful, it is to bring the message of the Lord so that it grows in us. Applause for all catechists, for all of them!
I greet all of you with affection, dear pilgrims from various countries. Today, the first greeting is reserved for the children and youth of Rome, who’ve come for the traditional blessing of the Baby Jesus figurines, organized by parish oratories and Catholic schools. Dear children, when you pray before your creche with your parents, ask the Baby Jesus to help all of us to love God and our neighbor. And a reminder to pray also for me, as I pray for you. Thank you.
I greet the professors of the Catholic University of Sydney, the choir of Mosteiro de Grijo in Portugal, the faithful of Barbianello and Campobasso.
I wish all of you a happy Sunday. And don’t forget to pray for me. And one thing I wanted to say to the children and the youth. We want to hear you sing a song. Have a good lunch and until soon! Sing!