St. Peter's Square
Sunday, 2 December 2018
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today begins Advent, the liturgical season that prepares us for Christmas, inviting us to look up and open our hearts to welcome Jesus. In Advent we do not only live the wait for Christmas; we are also invited to awaken the expectation of the glorious return of Christ - when at the end of time he will return -, preparing for the final meeting with him with coherent and courageous choices. Let us remember Christmas, we await the glorious return of Christ, and also our personal encounter: the day on which the Lord will call. In these four weeks we are called to come out of a resigned and habitual way of life, and to go out, fueling hopes, fueling dreams for a new future. The Gospel of this Sunday (cf. Lk 21: 25-28.34-36) goes precisely in this direction and warns us to let ourselves be oppressed by an egocentric lifestyle or by the convulsive rhythms of the days. The words of Jesus are particularly incisive: "Be attentive to yourselves, that your hearts may not be weighed down in dissipations, drunkenness and cares of life, and that on that day you will not suddenly come upon us. [...] Watch at all times praying "(verses 34.36).
Stay awake and pray: this is how you live this time from today until Christmas. Stay awake and pray. Inner sleep arises from always turning around ourselves and from being stuck in the closed of one's life with its problems, its joys and its sorrows, but always turning around ourselves. And this tired, this bored, this closes to hope. Here is the root of the torpor and laziness of which the Gospel speaks. Advent invites us to a vigilant commitment, looking outside ourselves, enlarging our mind and our heart to open ourselves to the needs of the people, of the brothers, to the desire for a new world. It is the desire of so many peoples tormented by hunger, injustice, war; it is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned. This time is appropriate to open our hearts, to ask us concrete questions about how and for whom we spend our lives.
The second attitude to live well the time of waiting for the Lord is that of prayer. "Stand up and raise your head, because your liberation is near" (verse 28), admonishes the Gospel of Luke. It is a matter of getting up and praying, turning our thoughts and our hearts to Jesus who is about to come. You get up when you wait for something or someone. We wait for Jesus, we want him to wait in prayer, which is closely linked to vigilance. To pray, to wait for Jesus, to open up to others, to be awake, not closed in ourselves. But if we think of Christmas in an atmosphere of consumerism, of seeing what I can buy to do this and this other, of the worldly festival, Jesus will pass and we will not find him. We await Jesus and we want him to wait in prayer, which is closely linked to vigilance.
But what is the horizon of our prayerful waiting? Above all, the voices of the prophets indicate this in the Bible. Today it is that of Jeremiah, who speaks to the people harshly tried by exile and who risks losing his identity. Even we Christians, who are also the people of God, risk to mingle ourselves and lose our identity, indeed, to "paganize" the Christian style. Therefore we need the Word of God that through the prophet proclaims: "Behold, there will come days when I will fulfill the promises of good that I have done [...]. I will sprout for David a just seed, which will exercise judgment and justice on earth "(33: 14-15). And that just seed is Jesus, it is Jesus who comes and we await. May the Virgin Mary, who brings us Jesus, woman of expectation and prayer, help us to strengthen our hope in the promises of her Son Jesus, to make us experience that, through the travail of history, God always remains faithful and also serves of human errors to show his mercy.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
Advent is a time of hope. At this moment I would like to make my own the hope of peace for the children of Syria, the beloved Syria, tormented by a war that has lasted eight years. For this reason, by adhering to the initiative of "Aid to the Church in Need", I will now light a candle, along with many children who will do the same, Syrian children and many faithful in the world who today light their candles [lit the candle].
This flame of hope and many flames of hope disperse the darkness of war! We pray and help Christians stay in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation. The flame of hope also reaches all those who suffer in these days conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far. The prayer of the Church helps them to feel the proximity of the faithful God and touches every conscience for a sincere commitment to peace. And that God, our Lord, forgive those who make war, those who make weapons to destroy themselves and convert their hearts. We pray for peace in beloved Syria.
I address my greeting to you, Romans and pilgrims, present here; in particular those coming from Linden, in the United States of America, Valencia and Pamplona; as well as the students and professors of the "Claret" College of Madrid.
I greet the polyphonic choir of Modica, the faithful of Altamura, Conversano and Laterza. I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good Advent journey. Please do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye!