Here below is a translation of Pope Francis’ address during his final General Audience of 2014 in St. Peter’s Square, which took place this morning and coincided with his 78th birthday:
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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS IN ITALIAN
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The Synod of Bishops on the Family just held was the first stage of a journey, which will end next October with the holding of another Assembly on the theme “The Family’s Vocation and Mission in the Church and in the World.” The prayer and reflection that must accompany this journey involves the whole People of God. I would also like the usual meditations of the Wednesday Audiences to be inserted in this common journey. Therefore, I have decided to reflect this year with you precisely on the family, on this great gift that the Lord has made to the world since the beginning, when He conferred on Adam and Eve the mission to multiply and fill the earth (Cf. Genesis 1:28) — that gift that Jesus has confirmed and sealed in his Gospel.
The closeness of Christmas sheds great light on this mystery. The Incarnation of the Son of God opens a new beginning in the universal history of man and woman. And this new beginning takes place within a family at Nazareth. Jesus was born in a family. He could have come spectacularly, or as a warrior, an emperor … No, no: he came as a son of a family, in a family. This is important: to contemplate in the Crib this very beautiful scene.
God chose to be born in a human family, which He Himself formed. He formed it in a forgotten village of the periphery of the Roman Empire. Not at Rome, which was the capital of the Empire, not in a great city, but in an almost invisible periphery, in fact, rather ill-famed. The Gospels recall this, almost as a way of saying: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 46). Perhaps, in many parts of the world, we still speak like this, when we hear the name of some peripheral place of a large city. Well, in fact from there, from that periphery of the great Empire, the most holy and good story began — that of Jesus among men. And this family was there.
Jesus stayed in that periphery for 30 years. The Evangelist Luke summarizes this period thus: Jesus “was obedient to them [namely, Mary and Joseph]. And someone might say: “But this God, who came to save us, wasted thirty years there, in that ill-famed periphery?” He wasted so many years! He willed this. Jesus’ way was in that family. His Mother kept all these things in her heart, and “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” (2:51-51). There is no talk of miracles and healings, of preaching – he did not do any in that time. At Nazareth, everything seemed to be happening “normally,” in keeping with the customs of a pious and hard-working Jewish family: they worked, the Mother cooked, and did all the things of the house, ironed shirts … everything a mother does. The Father, a carpenter, worked and taught his son to work – for 30 years. “But what waste, Father!” God’s ways are mysterious. However, what was important there was the family! And this was not a waste! They were great Saints: Mary, the holiest woman, immaculate, and Joseph, the most just man… the family.
We will certainly be moved by the account of how Jesus, as an adolescent, attended the meetings of the religious community and carried out the duties of the social life; in knowing how, as a young worker, he worked with Joseph; and then his way of taking part in listening to the Scriptures, to the praying of the Psalms and in so many other things of daily life. In their sobriety, the Gospels do not say anything about Jesus’ adolescence and leave this task to our affectionate meditation. Art, literature and music have followed the way of imagination. It is certainly not difficult to imagine how much mothers can learn from Mary’s care for that Son! And how much fathers can draw from the example of Joseph, just man who dedicated his life to supporting and defending the child and his spouse – his family – in difficult moments! Not to say how much youngsters can be encouraged by the adolescent Jesus, in understanding the need and beauty of cultivating their most profound vocation, and of dreaming great things! And in those 30 years Jesus cultivated the vocation for which the Father sent him. And, in that time, Jesus was never discouraged, but he grew in courage to go forward with his mission.
As Mary and Joseph did, every Christian family can first of all receive Jesus, listen to him, talk with him, guard and protect him, grow with him, and thus improve the world. Let us make a place in our heart and in our days for the Lord. As Mary and Joseph also did, and it was not easy: how many difficulties they had to surmount! It was not an artificial family; it was not an unreal family. The family of Nazareth commits us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family, of every family. And, as happened in those 30 years at Nazareth, so it can also happen for us: to make love and not hatred normal, to make mutual help common, not indifference and enmity. It is no accident, then, that “Nazareth” means “She who guards,” as the Gospel says Mary did, who “kept all these things in her heart” (Cf. Luke 2:19.51). Since then, every time there is a family — even if it is at the periphery of the world — which keeps this mystery, the mystery of the Son of God, the mystery of Jesus who comes to save us, is at work and comes to save the world. This is the great mission of the family: to make room for Jesus who comes, to receive Jesus in the family, in the person of the children, of the husband, of the wife, of the grandparents … Jesus is there. Welcome him there, so that he will grow spiritually in that family. May the Lord give us this grace in these last days before Christmas. Thank you.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
Summary in English:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In preparation for next October’s meeting of the Synod of bishops on the vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the world, our weekly catecheses will be devoted to the theme of the family. This Advent season of prayerful expectation for the Lord’s coming invites us to consider how God’s original gift of the family was taken up and confirmed in the mystery of the Incarnation. The Son of God chose to be born into a human family, in an obscure town on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Although the Gospels tell us little about the first thirty years of his life, we can imagine that Jesus led a very “normal” family life. He was raised in an atmosphere of religious devotion, he learned from the words and example of Mary and Joseph, and he grew in wisdom, age and grace (Cf. Luke 2:52). In imitation of the holy Family, every Christian family must make a place for Jesus in its home. For it is through the love of such “normal” families that God’s Son quietly comes to dwell among us, bringing salvation to our world.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the various student groups from the United States of America. As the holy season of Christmas draws near, I invoke upon you and your families joy and peace in the Lord Jesus. God bless you all![Original text: English]
Greeting in Italian
In the atmosphere of serene expectation, characteristic of these days close to Christmas, I am pleased to greet affectionately the Italian-speaking faithful. I greet the students of the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum and the Community of the Legionaries of Christ with the new priests; the delegation of the municipality of Bolsena; the tango dancers and the numerous schoolchildren. It seems to be a two by four square! I exhort all to make more intense in these days their commitment to prayer and go
od works, so that Jesus’ birth will fill your hearts with the true joy that He alone can give.
A special greeting goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Let us entrust ourselves to Mary, Mother of Hope and model of the perfect believer. Dear young people, receive the mystery of Bethlehem with the same faith with which Mary received the Angel Gabriel’s announcement. Dear sick, draw from her that joy and profound peace that Jesus comes to bring to the world. Dear newlyweds, imitate the example of Jesus’ Mother with prayer and virtues.
THE HOLY FATHER’S APPEAL
Now, a moment of silence and then, with the Our Father, I would like to pray together with you for the victims of the inhuman terrorist acts carried out in past days in Australia, Pakistan and Yemen. May the Lord receive the deceased in his peace, comfort their families and convert the hearts of the violent, who do not stop — not even before children. Let us sing the Our Father, asking for this grace.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]