During a special weekly general audience coinciding with his 78th birthday, Pope Francis called on all families to make a special place for Jesus in their homes this Advent.
Although the Holy Father did not himself draw any attention to his birthday, those gathered were ready to celebrate. Tango enthusiasts had been dancing on Via della Conciliazione, the street leading into St. Peter’s Square, for the Pope’s big day.
While making his way through the Square before the audience, not only did Francis sip some mate, a traditional Argentinian drink, given him by pilgrims in the square, he also stopped by seminarians of the Legionaries of Christ who gave him a birthday cake with candles.
Following the welcoming festivities, the Pope continued his catechesis on the family, reminding the jubilant pilgrims that the Son of God chose to be born into a human family, in an obscure town on the periphery of the Roman Empire.
“This Advent season of prayerful expectation for the Lord’s coming,” he reflected, “invites us to consider how God’s original gift of the family was taken up and confirmed in the mystery of the Incarnation.”
In imitation of the Holy Family, the Holy Father said, every Christian family is to “make a place for Jesus in its home.”
The Argentine Pontiff noted Jesus lived a normal life, in a normal family, and how his and his parents’ examples can serve as role models to people nowadays.
“He was raised in an atmosphere of religious devotion,” the Pope said, noting, “He learned from the words and example of Mary and Joseph, and grew in wisdom, age and grace.”
Like Jesus’ parents did, he said, each Christian family is to welcome, speak, and develop their relationship with Christ, which will in turn “improve the world.”
“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,” Francis proclaimed.
“We must make room in our hearts and in our days for the Lord,” he said, just like Mary and Joseph did, even when it’s not easy.
“How many difficulties they had to overcome!” he continued, noting they were a real family with struggles like ours.
The family of Nazareth, the 78-year-old Pope said, “commits us to rediscover the vocation and mission of the family,” especially this blessed Advent.