St. Peter's Square
Sunday, December 22, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the Gospel (cf Mt 1,18-24) guides us towards Christmas through the experience of St. Joseph, an apparently secondary figure, but in whose attitude all Christian wisdom is enclosed . He, together with John the Baptist and Mary, is one of the characters that the liturgy offers us for the time of Advent; and of the three it is the most modest. One who does not preach, does not speak, but tries to do the will of God; and he does it in the style of the Gospel and the Beatitudes. We think: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, because of them is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5: 3). And Joseph is poor because he lives on the essentials, works, lives on work; it is the typical poverty of those who are aware that they depend entirely on God and place their trust in Him.
Today's Gospel story presents a humanly embarrassed and conflicting situation. Joseph and Mary are betrothed; they do not live together yet, but she is expecting a child by God's work. Joseph, in the face of this surprise, naturally remains troubled but, instead of reacting in an impulsive and punitive way - as was customary, the law protected him - , seek a solution that respects the dignity and integrity of his beloved Mary. Thus says the Gospel: "Joseph, her husband, because he was a righteous man and did not want to accuse her publicly, thought of secretly repudiating her" (v. 19). In fact, Joseph knew well that, if he had denounced his betrothed, he would have exposed her to serious consequences, even to death. He has full confidence in Mary, whom he has chosen as his bride. He does not understand but looks for another solution.
This inexplicable circumstance leads him to question their bond; therefore, with great suffering, he decides to detach himself from Mary without creating scandal. But the Angel of the Lord intervenes to tell him that the solution he proposes is not the one willed by God. Indeed, the Lord opens a new path for him, a path of union, love and happiness and says to him: «Joseph, son David, do not be afraid to take your wife Mary with you. In fact, the child who is generated in her comes from the Holy Spirit "(v. 20).
At this point, Joseph totally trusts God, obeys the Angel's words and takes Mary with him. Precisely this unwavering trust in God allowed him to accept a humanly difficult and, in a certain sense, incomprehensible situation. Joseph understands, in faith, that the child born in Mary's womb is not his son, but is the Son of God and he, Joseph, will be its custodian, fully assuming his earthly paternity. The example of this mild and wise man urges us to look up and push him further. It is a matter of recovering the surprising logic of God who, far from small or large calculations, is made of openness to new horizons, towards Christ and his Word.
May the Virgin Mary and her chaste husband Joseph help us to listen to Jesus who comes, and who asks to be welcomed in our projects and choices.
Dear brothers and sisters!
I greet all of you, faithful from Rome and pilgrims from Italy and various countries.
In particular, I greet the delegation of Italian citizens who live in severely polluted territories and who aspire to a better quality of the environment and fair health protection.
In three days it will be Christmas and my thoughts go especially to the families, to your families, who reunite in these holidays: those who live far from their parents leave and go home; the brothers try to find each other. May Christmas be an occasion for all for fraternity, growth in faith and gestures of solidarity towards those in need. And that St. Joseph accompanies us on this journey towards Christmas.
I wish you a happy Sunday. Please don't forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye.