“Today there is a need for people who are witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which shakes up those who are resigned, revives the discouraged, [and] ignites the fire of hope.”

These were the words of Pope Francis during his Sunday Angelus address to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today. Despite the chilly morning weather, thousands packed the square, where an 83 foot fir tree and construction scaffolding were placed at the center in preparation for Christmas.

In his address, the Holy Father reflected on the first reading of Sunday’s liturgy from the prophet Isaiah. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated,” the reading states.

The Pope said that with these words, a time of consolation has come where the Lord “will guide his people on the path of freedom and salvation."

“In what way will He do this?” he asked. “With the care and tenderness of a shepherd who takes care of His flock. He will give unity and security to the flock, they will graze, the scattered sheep will be gathered safely, He will pay special attention to the most fragile and weak.”

However, he continued, Christians cannot be messengers of God’s consolation if they do not experience it firsthand. While explaining that this encounter can be find in moments such as prayer, the Eucharist and listening to the Word, the Pope reminded the faithful to carry a book of Gospels with them.

“The Gospel, which we should carry in our pocket, do not forget this! The Gospel, in your pocket or in your purse, read it continuously. This consoles us!” he said.

A Need for Joyful Witness

Continuing his address, Pope Francis said that today’s world is in need of people who are witnesses of God’s mercy. That mercy, he said, ignites the fire of hope in others.

“So many situations require our consoling witness. To be joyful people, consoled,” the Holy Father said. “I think of those who are oppressed by suffering, injustice and abuses; those who are enslaved by money, power, success, worldliness. Poor things, they have a false consolation, they do not have the true consolation of the Lord!”

The 77 year old Pontiff lamented that many times, people are afraid of being consoled, preferring to feel “safer in sadness and desolation” since mankind feels like the protagonist.

“In consolation, the Holy Spirit is the protagonist!” he exclaimed. “It is He who consoles us, it is He who gives us the courage to come out of ourselves. It is He who brings us to the source of every true consolation, that is, the Father. And this is conversion.”

“Please,” he stressed, “let yourselves be consoled by the Lord! Let yourselves be consoled by the Lord!”

Concluding his address, Pope Francis called on the faithful to entrust to the Virgin Mary the expectation of salvation for all mankind.