PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Third Sunday of Advent, 14 December 2014
On this Sunday, the Church, looks forward to the joy of Christmas, and that is why it is called “Gaudete Sunday”. In this season, a time of preparation for Christmas, we wear dark vestments, but today they are pink for the blossoming of Christmas joy. And the joy of Christmas is a special joy; but it is a joy that isn’t just for the day of Christmas, it is for the entire life of a Christian. It is a serene and tranquil joy, a joy that forever accompanies the Christian. Even in difficult moments, in moments of difficulty, this joy becomes peace. When he is a true Christian, the Christian never loses his peace, even in suffering. That peace is a gift from the Lord. Christian joy is a gift from the Lord. “Ah, Father, we’ll have a nice big luncheon, everybody will be happy”. This is lovely, a nice luncheon is good; but this isn’t the Christian joy we are talking about today. Christian joy is something else. It brings us together to celebrate, it’s true. Thus the Church wants you to understand what Christian joy is.
The Apostle St Paul says to the Thessalonians: “Brothers, rejoice always”. And how can I rejoice? He says: “pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances”. We find our Christian joy in prayer, it comes from prayer and from giving thanks to God: “Thank you, Lord, for so many beautiful things!”. But there are those who don’t know how to give thanks to God; they are always looking for something to lament about. I knew a sister — far from here! — this sister was a good woman, she worked... but her life was about lamenting, complaining about so many things that happened.... You see, in the convent they called her “Sr Lamenta”. But a Christian cannot live like this, always looking for something to complain about: “That person has something I don't have.... Did you see what just happened?...”. This is not Christian! And it is harmful to find Christians with embittered faces, with a face wry with bitterness, not in peace. Never, never was there a saint with a mournful face, never! Saints always have joy in their faces. Or at least, amid suffering, a face of peace. The greatest suffering, the martyrdom of Jesus: He always had peace in his face and was concerned about others: his mother, John, the thief... his concern was for others.
To have this Christian joy, first, is prayer; second, to give thanks. And what do I do to give thanks? Reflect on your life and think of the many good things that life has given you: so many. “But, Father, it’s true, but I have also received so many bad things!” — “Yes, it’s true, it happens to us all. But think of the good things” — “I have a Christian family, Christian parents, thank God I have a job, my family is not suffering of hunger, we are all healthy...”. I don’t know, so many things, and give thanks to the Lord for this. This accustoms us to joy. Pray, give thanks....
And then, the First Reading suggests another dimension that will help us to have joy. It is to bring others the Good News: We are Christians. “Christian” comes from “Christ”, and “Christ” means “anointed”. And we too are “anointed”. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord consecrated me with unction. We are anointed: Christians mean “anointed ones”. And why are we anointed? To do what? “He sent me to bring the good news” to whom? “To the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (cf. Isaiah 61:1-2). This is the vocation of Christ and the vocation of Christians as well. To go to others, to those in need, whether their needs be material or spiritual.... Many people who suffer anxiety because of family problems.... To bring peace there, to bring the unction of Jesus, the oil of Jesus which does so much good and consoles souls.
Therefore, in order to have this joy in preparation for Christmas, first, pray: “Lord, let me live this Christmas with true joy”. Not with the joy of consumerism that leads me to 24 December with anxiety, because “ah, I’m missing this, I’m missing that...”. No, this is not the joy of God. Prayer. Second: give thanks to the Lord for the good things he has given us. Third, think of how we can go to others, to those in difficulty and with problems — let us think of the sick, of so many problems — to bring a little unction, peace, joy. This is the joy of the Christian. Agreed? We have 15 days left, a little less: 13 days. In these days, let us pray. But do not forget: let us pray, asking for the joy of Christmas. Let us give thanks to God for the good things that he has given us, above all the faith. This is a wonderful grace. Third, let us think where I can go to bring a little relief, a little peace, to those who suffer. Pray, give thanks and help others. And like this we will arrive at the Birth of the Anointed One, the Christ, as ones anointed in grace, prayer and acts of grace and help towards others.
May Our Lady accompany us on this path towards Christmas. And let there be joy, joy!
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
For two weeks already, the Season of Advent has been calling us to spiritual vigilance in preparing the way for the Lord who is to come. On this Third Sunday, the Liturgy sets forth another interior attitude by which to live out this time of waiting for the Lord, that is joy. The joy of Jesus, as that sign [held up in St Peter’s Square] reads: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. That’s it, it proposes Jesus’ joy to us!
The human heart desires joy. We all desire joy, every family, every people aspires to happiness. But what is the joy that the Christian is called to live out and bear witness to? It is the joy that comes from the closeness of God, from his presence in our life. From the moment Jesus entered into history, with his birth in Bethlehem, humanity received the seed of the Kingdom of God, like the soil receives the seed, the promise of a future harvest. There is no need to look further! Jesus has come to bring joy to all people for all time. It is not just a hopeful joy or a joy postponed until paradise: as if here on earth we are sad but in paradise we will be filled with joy. No! It is not that, but a joy already real and tangible now, because Jesus himself is our joy, and with Jesus joy finds its home, as your sign there says: joy is at home in Jesus. All of us, let us say it: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. Once more: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. And without Jesus is there joy? No! Well done! He is living, He is the Risen One, and He works in us and among us especially with the Word and the Sacraments.
We who are baptized, children of the Church, we are called to accept ever anew the presence of God among us and to help others to discover Him, or to rediscover what they have forgotten. It is a most beautiful mission, like that of John the Baptist: to direct the people to Christ — not to ourselves! — for He is the destination to which the human heart tends when it seeks joy and happiness.
In today’s liturgy St Paul again indicates the conditions for being “missionaries of joy”: praying constantly, always giving thanks to God, giving way to his Spirit, seeking the good and avoiding evil (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-22). If this becomes our lifestyle, then the Good News will be able to enter so many homes and help people and families to rediscover that in Jesus lies salvation. In Him it is possible to find interior peace and the strength to face different life situations every day, even the heaviest and most difficult. No one has ever heard of a sad saint with a mournful face. This is unheard of! It would be a contradiction. The Christian’s heart is filled with peace because he knows how to place his joy in the Lord even when going through the difficult moments in life. To have faith does not mean to never have difficult moments but to have the strength to face those moments knowing that we are not alone. And this is the peace that God gives to his children.
With her gaze turned to Christmas already close at hand, the Church invites us to bear witness that Jesus is not a person of the past; He is the Word of God who today continues to illuminate the path of mankind; his gestures — the Sacraments — are the manifestation of the tenderness, consolation and love that the Father bears for every human being. May the Virgin Mary, “Cause of our joy”, render us ever more joyous in the Lord, who comes to free us from the many forms of interior and exterior slavery.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, I forgot how that phrase went. There it is, let’s see: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. All together: “Joy is at home in Jesus”.
And now I greet with affection the children who have come for the blessing of the “Baby Jesus” figurines, organized by Centro oratori romani. My compliments! You have been so good, you were joyful here in the square, my compliments! And now you are carrying a blessed crib. Dear children, I thank you for your presence and I wish you a happy Christmas! When you pray at home before your nativity scenes, remember to also pray for me, as I will remember to do for you. Prayer is the soul’s breath: it is important to find moments throughout the day to open your heart to God, even with simple and brief prayers of the Christian people. That is why, today I thought of a gift for all of you here in the square, a surprise, a present: I will give you a little pocket-size book that contains a few prayers, for different moments throughout the day and for different situations in life. It’s this. Some volunteers will distribute them. Take one each and carry it with you always as an aid to living the whole day with God. And so that we don’t forget that message that you wrote on that sign which is so very beautiful: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. Once more: “Joy is at home in Jesus”. Well done!
To all of you I cordially wish a good Sunday and a good lunch. Don’t forget, please pray for me. Good bye! And much joy!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.