On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

«None of us can buy salvation. Salvation is a free gift from the Lord!»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

The message of today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary can be summed up in these words: everything is a grace, everything is a free gift from God and his love for us. The Angel Gabriel calls Mary «full of grace» (Lk.1,28): in Her there is no room for sin, because God has always chosen Her as the mother of Jesus and has preserved Her from original sin.

And Mary corresponds to the grace and abandons Herself to it saying to the Angel: «Be it done to me according to your word» (v.38). She doesn’t say «I will do it according to your word», but «Be it done to me…» And the Word was made flesh in her womb. We too are asked to listen to God who speaks to us and to receive His will; according to the logic of the Gospel, nothing is more active and fruitful than to listen and receive the Word of the Lord. Which comes from the Gospel, which comes from the Bible! The Lord always speaks to us!

The attitude of Mary of Nazareth shows us that being comes before doing, and we must leave it to God to truly become as He wants us to be. It is He who does so many marvels in us. Mary is receptive, but not passive. Just as, at a physical level, She receives the power of the Holy Spirit but then gives flesh and blood to the Son of God that is forming in Her, She also receives the grace and corresponds to it with faith, on a spiritual level. For this reason, St. Augustine says that the Virgin «conceived first in the heart before the womb» (Discorsi, 215,4). Faith was conceived first, then the Lord!

This mystery of the acceptance of grace, who in Mary by a unique privilege, was without the obstacle of sin, is a chance for everyone. St. Paul, in fact, opens his Letter to the Ephesians with these words of praise: «Blessed be God, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the Heavens in Christ» (1,3). As Mary was greeted by St. Elizabeth as «blessed among women» (Lk. 1,42), so have we always been «blessed», that is loved, and therefore «chosen first from the creation of the world to be holy and immaculate» (Eph. 1,4).

Mary was preserved, while we were saved thanks to Baptism and the faith. All however, be it Her and us, through Jesus Christ, «for the praise of the glory of his grace» (v.6), that grace from which the Immaculate was filled in its fullness.

In front of the love, mercy, divine grace poured into our hearts, the consequence that is imposed is one: gratuity. None of us can buy salvation. Salvation is a free gift from the Lord! A free gift from God that arrives in us and lives within us. As we have received freely, so we are called to give freely (cfr Mt. 10,8); in imitation of Mary, who, immediately after having received the announcement of the Angel, goes to share the gift of fertility with Her cousin Elizabeth. Because, if everything has been given, everything must be given back.

In what way? By letting the Holy Spirit make of us a gift to others. The Spirit is a gift for us, and we, with the strength of the Spirit, must be gifts for others. That makes us become instruments of acceptance, reconciliation and forgiveness. If our existence is to be transformed by the grace of the Lord, because the grace of the Lord transforms us, we cannot keep for ourselves the light that comes from his face, but we let it shine so that it illuminates others. Let us learn from Mary, who had her gaze constantly fixed on Her Son and Her face has become «the face that resembles Christ the most» » (Dante, Paradiso, XXXII, 87). We turn to Her now with the prayer that recalls the annunciation of the Angel.

After the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters,

I affectionately greet all of you, especially the families and parish groups. I greet the faithful of Rocca di Papa, the pastor, the marathoners, the cyclists and I bless their torch. I greet the group from Felline (Lecce), the «Completamente tuoi» association and the youth from Carugate.

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Catholic Action [group] will renew their adherence. I extend a special thought to all their diocesan associations and parishes. May the Immaculate Virgin bless Catholic Action and make it more and more a school of holiness and generous service to the Church and the world.

This afternoon I will travel to St. Mary Major, to greet the Salus Popoli Romani and then to Piazza di Spagna to renew the traditional act of homage and prayer at the feet of the monument to the Immaculate Conception. It will be an afternoon completely dedicated to Our Lady! I ask that you unite yourselves spiritually to me in this pilgrimage that expresses the filial devotion to Our Heavenly Mother. And do not forget, salvation is free! We have received this gratuity, this grace of God and we should give it back. We have received the gift, we should give it back to others. Do not forget this!

To all I wish a happy feast day and a happy Advent season under the guidance of the Virgin Mary. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye. 

[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
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