St. Peter's Square
Sunday, December 8, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today we celebrate the solemnity of Mary Immaculate, which is placed in the context of Advent, a time of waiting: God will accomplish what he has promised. But in today's celebration we are told that something has already been accomplished, in the person and in the life of the Virgin Mary. Today we consider the beginning of this fulfillment, which is still before the birth of the Mother of the Lord. In fact, his immaculate conception leads us to that precise moment when Mary's life began to palpitate in her mother's womb: already there was the sanctifying love of God, preserving her from the contagion of evil that is a common heritage of the human family .
In today's Gospel the greeting of the Angel to Mary resounds: "Rejoice, full of grace: the Lord is with you" (Lk 1:28). God has always thought and wanted it, in his inscrutable design, as a creature full of grace, that is filled with his love. But to be filled, it is necessary to make space, empty oneself, step aside. Just as Mary did, who knew how to listen to the Word of God and totally trust her will, accepting it unreservedly in her life. So much so that in her the Word has become flesh. This was possible thanks to his "yes". To the Angel who asks her availability to become the mother of Jesus, Mary replies: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord: let it be for me according to your word" (v. 38).
Mary does not lose herself in so many arguments, she does not put obstacles in the way of the Lord, but relies quickly and leaves room for the action of the Holy Spirit. He immediately makes available to God all his being and his personal history, so that the Word and the will of God may shape them and bring them to completion. Thus, corresponding perfectly to God's plan for her, Mary becomes the "all beautiful", the "all holy", but without the slightest hint of complacency. He is humble. She is a masterpiece, but remaining humble, small, poor. In her is reflected the beauty of God which is all love, grace, self-giving.
I also like to emphasize the word with which Mary defines herself in her surrender to God: she professes "the handmaid of the Lord". The "yes" of Mary to God assumes from the beginning the attitude of service, of attention to the needs of others. The fact of the visit to Elizabeth, which immediately follows the Annunciation, bears witness to this. Availability to God is found in the willingness to take on the needs of others. All this without clamor and ostentation, without seeking places of honor, without advertising, because charity and works of mercy do not need to be exhibited as a trophy. The works of mercy are done in silence, in secret, without boasting of doing them. Even in our communities, we are called to follow Mary's example, practicing the style of discretion and concealment.
The feast of our Mother helps us to make our whole life a "yes" to God, a "yes" made of adoration to Him and daily gestures of love and service.
After the Angelus
Dear brothers and sisters,
yesterday, in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, James Miller was beatified, a religious of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, killed in hatred of the faith in 1982, in the context of the civil war. The martyrdom of this exemplary educator of young people, who paid with his life his service to the people and to the Guatemalan Church, strengthens in that dear nation paths of justice, peace and solidarity. A round of applause for the new Blessed!
Tomorrow there will be a meeting in Paris of the Presidents of Ukraine, Russia and France and the Federal Chancellor of Germany - known as "Normandy Format" - to find solutions to the painful conflict that has been going on for years in eastern Ukraine. I accompany the meeting with prayer, an intense prayer, because peace is needed there, and I invite you to do the same, so that this initiative of political dialogue will contribute to bringing peace in justice to that territory and its population.
I affectionately greet all of you, pilgrims from Italy and from various countries, especially the Polish faithful of Warsaw and Lublin, the Irish policemen and the youth of Sorbara (Modena). A special greeting goes to the Daughters of the Cross, recently recognized as a Public Association by the Cardinal Vicar.
In this feast of the Immaculate Conception, adhesion to Catholic Action is renewed in Italian parishes. I wish all members and groups a good path of formation, service and witness.
I bless the faithful of Rocca di Papa and the torch with which they will light the great star on the fortress of the town, in honor of Maria Immacolata. And my thoughts also go to the Sanctuary of Loreto, where today the Holy Door for the Lauretan Jubilee will be opened: may it be rich in grace for the pilgrims of the Holy House.
This afternoon I will go to Santa Maria Maggiore to pray to the Madonna, and then to the Piazza di Spagna for the traditional act of homage at the foot of the monument to the Immaculate Conception. I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother.
I wish you all a happy feast and a good journey of Advent towards Christmas, with the guidance of the Virgin Mary. Please don't forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye!