HOLY MASS FOR THE PHILIPPINE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
Sunday, December 15, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
today we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah invites the whole earth to rejoice over the coming of the Lord, who brings salvation to his people. He comes to open the eyes of the blind and the ears to the deaf, to cure the lame and the dumb (see 35.5-6). Salvation is offered to all, but the Lord manifests a special tenderness for the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the poorest of his people.
From the words of the Responsorial Psalm we learn that there are other vulnerable people who deserve a look of special love from God: they are the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoners, the foreigners, the orphans and the widows (see Psalm 145.7-9 ). They are the inhabitants of the existential peripheries of yesterday and today.
In Jesus Christ the saving love of God becomes tangible: "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) . These are the signs that accompany the realization of the Kingdom of God. Not trumpet blasts or military triumphs, not judgments and condemnations of sinners, but liberation from evil and an announcement of mercy and peace.
Also this year we are preparing to celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, of Emmanuel, the "God with us" who works wonders in favor of his people, especially the smallest and most fragile. These wonders are the "signs" of the presence of his Kingdom. And since the inhabitants of the existential peripheries continue to be still many, we must ask the Lord to renew the miracle of Christmas every year, offering ourselves as instruments of his merciful love towards the least.
To prepare ourselves adequately for this new outpouring of grace, the Church offers us the time of Advent, in which we are called to awaken in our hearts the expectation and to intensify our prayer. To this end, in the richness of the different traditions, the particular Churches have introduced a variety of devotional practices.
In the Philippines, for centuries, there has been a novena in preparation for the Holy Christmas called Simbang-Gabi (Mass of the night). During nine days, the Filipino faithful gather in their parishes for a special Eucharistic celebration. In recent decades, thanks to Filipino migrants, this devotion has crossed national borders and has arrived in many other countries. Simbang-Gabi has also been celebrated in the diocese of Rome for years, and today we celebrate it together here, in St. Peter's Basilica.
Through this celebration we want to prepare ourselves for Christmas according to the spirit of the Word of God which we have heard, remaining constant until the Lord's definitive coming, as the Apostle James recommends (cf. James 5: 7). We want to commit ourselves to manifest God's love and tenderness towards everyone, especially the least. We are called to be leaven in a society that often fails to taste the beauty of God and to experience the grace of its presence.
And you, dear brothers and sisters, who have left your land in search of a better future, you have a special mission. Your faith is "leaven" in the parish communities to which you belong today. I encourage you to multiply meeting opportunities to share your cultural and spiritual wealth, while at the same time allowing yourself to be enriched by the experiences of others. We are all invited to build together that communion in diversity that constitutes a distinctive trait of the Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, Son of God made man. We are all called to practice charity together with the inhabitants of the existential peripheries, putting our different gifts at the service, so as to renew the signs of the presence of the Kingdom. We are all called to proclaim the Gospel together, the Good News of salvation, in all languages, so as to reach as many people as possible.
The Holy Child that we are preparing to worship, wrapped in poor swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, bless you and give you the strength to carry on your testimony with joy.