St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, this year the liturgy presents the narrative of the Angel’s announcement to Mary. Contemplating the amazing icon of the Blessed Virgin at the moment when she receives the divine message and gives her answer, we are enlightened within by the light of truth that shines from that mystery ever new. In particular I would like to reflect briefly on the importance of Mary’s virginity, namely that she conceived Jesus while remaining a virgin.
Against the background of the event of Nazareth is the prophecy of Isaiah. “Behold, a young virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). This ancient promise found superabundant fulfilment in the Incarnation of the Son of God. Indeed, not only did the Virgin Mary conceive, but she did so through the work of the Holy Spirit, that is, God himself.
The human being who came to life in her womb took Mary’s flesh, but his existence derived totally from God. He is fully man, made of clay — to use the biblical symbol — but comes from on high, from Heaven. The fact that Mary conceived while remaining a virgin is thus essential to the knowledge of Jesus and to our faith, because it testifies that it was God’s initiative and, above all, it reveals who the conceived being was.
As the Gospel says: “the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). In this sense, the virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus guarantees each other. This is what makes that single question so important that Mary, “greatly troubled”, asks the Angel: “How can this be, since I have no husband?” (Luke 1:34). Mary was very wise in her simplicity. She did not doubt God’s power, but she wanted to better understand his will, in order to conform herself completely to this will. Mary was infinitely overcome by the Mystery, yet she occupied perfectly the place which, in its centre had been assigned to her. Her heart and her mind are fully humble and precisely because of her unique humility, God awaits this young woman’s “yes” in order to carry out his plan. He respects her dignity and her freedom. Mary’s “yes” entailed motherhood and virginity as a whole. She wanted everything in her to glorify God and he wanted the Son, born of her, to be totally a gift of grace.
Dear friends, Mary’s virginity is unique and unrepeatable; but its spiritual meaning concerns every Christian, who is essentially linked to faith. In fact, those who put deep trust in God’s love welcome Jesus and his divine life within them through the action of the Holy Spirit. This is the mystery of Christmas! I hope that you will all experience it with deep joy.
After the Angelus :
Dear brothers and sisters, yesterday in Madrid, 22 missionaries Oblates of Mary Immaculate and a layman were beatified. They were killed in Spain in 1936 for simply being zealous witnesses of the Gospel. The hope that their sacrifice will continue to bear abundant fruits of conversion and reconciliation is joined with joy in their beatification.
I would like to reassure my closeness to the populations of the southern Philippines, hit by a violent tropical storm. I pray for the victims, many of whom are children, for the homeless and for the many who have been dispersed.
I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. The Gospel of today’s liturgy recounts the Archangel Gabriel’s Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, that she would conceive and bear a son to be called Jesus. Just as the Immaculate Virgin brought God to us, may we be not afraid to let her bring us to God. In this final week of Advent, let us intensify our efforts to prepare for his coming. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the blessings of Almighty God!
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good preparation for Holy Christmas.
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today, the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the Liturgy wants to prepare us for Christmas, now at the door, by inviting us to meditate on the Angel’s Annunciation to Mary. The Archangel Gabriel reveals to the Virgin the Lord’s will that she become the mother of his Only-Begotten Son: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). Let us fix our gaze on this simple girl from Nazareth, at the moment she offers herself to the divine message with her “yes”; let us grasp two essential aspects of her attitude, which is for us the model of how to prepare for Christmas.
First of all her faith, her attitude of faith, which consists in listening to the Word of God in order to abandon herself to this Word with full willingness of mind and heart. Responding to the Angel, Mary said: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). In her “behold” filled with faith, Mary does not know by what road she must venture, what pains she must suffer, what risks she must face. But she is aware that it is the Lord asking and she entrusts herself totally to Him; she abandons herself to his love. This is the faith of Mary!
Another aspect is the capacity of the Mother of Christ to recognize God’s time. Mary is the one who made possible the Incarnation of the Son of God, “the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret for long ages” (Romans 16:25). She made possible the Incarnation of the Word thanks to her humble and brave “yes”. Mary teaches us to seize the right moment when Jesus comes into our life and asks for a ready and generous answer. And Jesus is coming. Indeed, the mystery of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem took place historically more than 2,000 years ago but occurs as a spiritual event in the “today” of the Liturgy. The Word, who found a home in the virgin womb of Mary, comes in the celebration of Christmas to knock once again at the heart of every Christian. He comes and knocks. Each of us is called to respond, like Mary, with a personal and sincere “yes”, placing oneself fully at the disposal of God and of his mercy, of his love. How many times Jesus comes into our lives, and how many times he sends us an angel, and how many times we don’t notice because we are so taken, immersed in our own thoughts, in our own affairs and even, in these days, in our Christmas preparations, so as not to notice Him who comes and knocks at the door of our hearts, asking for acceptance, asking for a “yes” like Mary’s. A saint used to say: “I am afraid that the Lord will come”. Do you know what the fear was? It was the fear of not noticing and letting Him pass by. When we feel in our hearts: “I would like to be a better man, a better woman…. I regret what I have done…”. That is the Lord knocking. He makes you feel this: the will to be better, the will to be closer to others, to God. If you feel this, stop. That is the Lord! And go to prayer, and maybe to confession, cleanse yourselves… this will be good. But keep well in mind: if you feel this longing to be better, He is knocking: don’t let Him pass by!
In the mystery of Christmas, at Mary’s side there is the silent presence of St Joseph, as he is portrayed in every Nativity scene — as in the one you can admire here in St Peter’s Square. The example of Mary and Joseph is for us all an invitation to accept, with total openness of spirit, Jesus, who for love made Himself our brother. He comes to bring to the world the gift of peace: “on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14), as the choirs of Angels proclaimed to the shepherds. The precious gift of Christmas is peace, and Christ is our true peace. And Christ knocks at our hearts to grant us peace, peace of the soul. Let us open our doors to Christ!
Let us entrust ourselves to the intercession of our Mother and of St Joseph in order to experience a truly Christian Christmas, free of all worldliness, ready to welcome the Saviour, God-among-us.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet all of you, faithful Romans and pilgrims from different Countries; families, parish groups and associations.
In particular, I greet the young people of the Focolare Movement, the Pope John XXIII Community and the AGESCI Scouts of Tor Sapienza, Rome.
Do not forget: the Lord comes, and if you feel a longing to improve, to be better, it is the Lord knocking at your door. This Christmas, the Lord is coming.
I wish all a good Sunday and a Christmas of hope, with doors open to the Lord, a Christmas of joy and brotherhood.
Do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch! Arrivederci!
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.
With reference to the News reported in Singapore on 19 January 2015 concerning the “MediShield Life Scheme Bill”, it was recorded by Channel NewsAsia as follows:
“SINGAPORE: When universal health insurance scheme MediShield Life comes into force later this year, authorised public servants will have access to medical and financial records, and the Government will be able to impose penalties – as a last resort – on those who default on paying premiums etc.
Other steps include sending warning letters to remind defaulters of their outstanding bills and appointing agents - such as one’s employer, bank or tenant - to make payment from funds due to the defaulter. As a final, drastic measure, defaulters may be sued. More details will be spelt out in the second reading of the Bill, which is expected at the end of the month.”
Everyone knows that the Global Economy is still sluggish and many people around the world are working hard to survive in this economic downturn, including many Singaporeans.
To have the “MediShield Life Scheme” is good for all Singaporeans and it is supposed to give life to them in reducing the payments of potential medical bills in future.
No one will fully know the hardship of another unless we are placed in the same situation. How are we going to assess objectively the intentions and economic situations of the “defaulters”? We shall let all Singaporeans including the Rulers to decide if the outcome of “default in payment of the premiums” is as bad as any criminal acts or torts that justifies the “suing in Court”? No payment of the premiums means the person wants to remove himself out from the common pool of protection, there is no confusion on that. Obviously there is no issue of unfairness, no disruption of public order that affects the economy of Singapore and no damage inflicted onto other fellow Singaporeans.
Singapore should always be seen as a life-giving Garden City that promotes the well-being of its citizens and all who come to visit us, isn’t it true? Let all the Singaporeans including Rulers work hard that the World may find Singapore a resting place in the midst of harsh economic environment, that’s how we can attract foreign investments.
20 January 2015