* * *
Dear brothers and sisters, hello!
Today is the third Sunday of Advent. It is called “Gaudete Sunday,” that is, the Sundayof joy. Often in the liturgy [today] we hear invitation to rejoice, to be happy. Why? Because the Lord is near. Christmas is near. The Christian message is called “gospel,” that is, “glad tidings,” an announcement of joy for the whole people; the Church is not a refuge for sad people, the Church is a house of joy! And those who are sad find joy in her, they find true joy in her.
But the joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It is caused by our finding ourselves embraced and loved by God. As the prophet Isaiah (cf. 35:1-6a, 8a, 10) reminds us, God is he who comes to save us, and give succor especially to the fearful of heart. His coming among us strengthens, solidifies, encourages, lifts up and makes the desert and plain bloom, that is, our life when it becomes arid. And when does our life become arid? This happens when it lacks the water of the Word of God and his Spirit of love. However great are our limits and our dismay, we are not permitted to be downhearted and vacillating in the face of our infirmities. On the contrary, we are invited to get a grip and straighten our weak knees, to have courage and not be afraid because our God always shows us the greatness of his mercy. He gives us the strength to go forward. He is always with us to help us go forward. He is a God who truly wants what is good for us, he loves us and so he is with us, to help us, to strengthen us and go forward. Take heart! Always forward! Thanks to his help we can always start over. How? How do we start over? Someone might say to me: “No, Father, I have done a lot of... I am a great sinner... I cannot start over!” You’re wrong! You can start over! How? Because he waits for you, he is near you, he loves you, he is merciful, he forgives you, he gives you the strength to start over! He gives it to everyone! Then we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and tears and sing a new song. And this true joy remains in times of trial too, even in suffering, because it is not a superficial joy but enters into the very depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and confides in him.
Christian joy, like hope, has its foundation in God’s fidelity, in the certainty that he always keeps his promises. The prophet Isaiah exhorts those who have lost their way and are in trouble to trust in the Lord’s fidelity because his salvation will not delay in breaking into their life. Those who have met Jesus along the way have experienced a joy that nothing and no one can take away. Jesus Christ is our joy! His faithful love is inexhaustible! Thus, when a Christian becomes sad, it means that he has distanced himself from Jesus. But we must not leave him to his own devices. We must pray for him, and make him feel the warmth of the community.
The Virgin Mary helps us hurry toward Bethlehem to meet the Child who is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all men. To her the Angels says: “Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). She obtains for us the joy of the Gospel in the family, at work, in the parish and everywhere. It is an intimate joy, made of wonder and tenderness. It is what a mother experiences when she looks at her newborn child, and feels that he is a gift of God, a miracle that she can only be grateful for!
[Following the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.]
Dear brothers and sisters, I am sorry that you have to stand in the rain! But I am with you, from here... Courage! Thank you!
Today the first greeting is for the children of Rome, who have come for the traditional blessing of the “Bambinelli” (figures of the Christ Child for the crèche), organized by the Centro Oratori Romani. Dear children, when you pray before your crèche, remember me too, as I will remember you. I thank you, and Merry Christmas!
I greet the families, parish groups, associations and individual pilgrims from Rome, from Italy and from many parts of the world, especially Spain and the United States of America. I greet the young people from Zambia with affection, and I hope that they will become “living stones” to build a more human society. I extend a greeting to all the young people who are present here, especially those from Piscopio and Gallipoli, and the Catholic Action university group from Lucano.
I greet the choirs of Vicenza, L’Aquila and Mercato San Severino; the faithful from Silvi Marina and San Lorenzello; and the members of CRAL Telecom with their families.
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye.
[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]