At 9:50 am Sunday, First Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father Francis presided over the Eucharistic Celebration — at the Altar of the Chair of the Vatican Basilica –, for the Congolese Catholic Community of Rome, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic Chaplaincy of Rome.
Here is a ZENIT working translation of the homily the Pope gave after the proclamation of the Gospel.
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Pope Francis: Boboto [Peace]
Assembly: Bondeko [Fraternity]
Pope Francis: Bondeko [Fraternity]
Assembly: Esengo [Joy]
In today’s Readings the verb come appears often, it’s presents thrice in the First Reading, while the Gospel ends saying that “the Son of Man is coming” (Mathew 24:44). Jesus comes: Advent reminds us of this certainty already by the name, because the word Advent means coming. The Lord comes: here is the root of our hope, the certainty that God’s consolation reaches us among the world’s tribulations, a consolation that is not made up of words, but of presence, of His presence who comes in our midst.
The Lord comes. Today, first day of the Liturgical Year, this proclamation marks our point of departure: we know that beyond every favourable or contrary event, the Lord doesn’t leave us alone. He came two thousand years ago and will come again at the end of time, but He also comes today in my life, in your life — yes, our life, with all its problems, its anguishes and its uncertainties, is visited by the Lord. See here the source of our joy: the Lord has not tired and won’t ever tire of us. In fact, in the First Reading Isaiah prophesizes: “many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord’” (2:3). Whereas the evil on earth stems from the fact that each one follows his own path without the other, the prophet offers a wonderful vision: all come together to the mountain of the Lord. The Temple is on the mountain, the House of God. So, Isaiah transmits to us an invitation on behalf of God, to His House. We are God’s guests, and one who is invited is expected and desired. “Come — God says — because in my House there is a place for all. Come, because in my heart there isn’t one people, but all people.”
Dear brothers and sisters, you have come from far away. You have left your homes; you have left affections and dear things. Arriving here, you have found hospitality along with unforeseen difficulties. However, for God you are always pleasing guests. We are never strangers to Him but awaited children. And the Church is God’s House: here, therefore, always feel yourselves at home. We come here to walk together towards the Lord and fulfil the words with which the prophet Isaiah concludes: “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5).
However, the darkness of the world can be preferred to the light of the Lord. One can respond to the Lord who comes and to His invitation to go to Him, saying: ”No, I’m not going.” Often, it’s not a direct “no,” cheeky but sneaky. It’s the ‘no’ of which Jesus puts us on guard in the Gospel, exhorting us not to do as in the “days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37). What happened in Noah’s days? It happened that, while something new and overwhelming was about to arrive, no one paid any attention to it, because they all thought only of eating and drinking (Cf. v. 38). In other words, all reduced life to their needs; they were content with a flat, horizontal life, without enthusiasm. There was no waiting for someone, only the claim of having something for oneself, to consume. Waiting for the Lord who comes, and not the claim of having something for us to consume. This is consumerism.
Consumerism is a virus that corrodes faith at the root, because it makes one believe that life depends only on what one has, and so one forgets God who comes to encounter one and one next to you. The Lord comes, but one follows rather the appetites that come to one; your brother knocks on your door, but you are bothered because he disturbs your plans — and this is the egoistic attitude of consumerism. When Jesus points out in the Gospel the dangers for faith He is not concerned with powerful enemies, with hostilities and persecutions. All this has been, is and will be, but it doesn’t weaken faith. The real danger, instead, is what anesthetizes the heart: it’s to depend on consuming, to let oneself be weighed down and to dissipate the heart with needs (cf. Luke 21:34).
Then one lives of things and one no longer knows for what; there are so many goods but the good is no longer done; homes are filled with things but empty of children. This is today’s tragedy: homes filled with things but empty of children, the demographic winter that we are suffering. Time is thrown away in pastimes, but there is no time for God and for others. And when one lives for things, things are never enough, greed grows and others become obstacles in the race and thus one finishes by feeling threatened and, always dissatisfied and angry, the level of hatred rises. ‘I want more, I want more, I want more . . .” We see it today where consumerism reigns: how much violence, also only verbal, how much anger and the desire to seek an enemy at all costs! So, while the world is full of arms that cause deaths, we don’t realize that we continue to arm the heart with anger.
Jesus wants to reawaken us from all this. He does so with a verb: “Watch” (Matthew 24:42). “Pay attention, watch.” To watch was the work of the watchman, who watched staying awake while all slept. To watch is not to yield to the sleep that envelops all. To be able to watch one must have a sure hope: that the night won’t last for ever, that soon the dawn will arrive. It is thus also for us: God comes and His light will also illuminate the densest darkness. However, it’s for us today to watch, to watch: to overcome the temptation that the meaning of life is to accumulate — this is a temptation. The meaning of life isn’t to accumulate –, it is for us to unmask the deceit that one is happy if one has many things, to resist the dazzling lights of consumption, which shine everywhere in this month, and to believe that prayer and charity are not wasted time, but the greatest treasures.
When we open the heart to the Lord and to brothers, the precious good comes, which things can never give us and which Isaiah proclaims in the First Reading, peace: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). They are words that make us think also of your homeland. Today we pray for peace, gravely threatened in the East of the country, especially in the territories of Beni and of Minembwe, where conflicts flare up, fueled also from outside, in the complicit silence of so many. Conflicts fueled by those that enrich themselves selling arms.
Today you remember a very beautiful figure, Blessed Marie-Clementine Anuarite Nengapeta, violently killed without first having said, as Jesus, to her executioner: “I forgive you, because you don’t know what you are doing!” Let us ask through her intercession that, in the name of God-Love and with the help of the neighboring populations, arms are given up for a future that is no longer one against others, but one with the others, and that there is a conversion from an economy that makes use of war to an economy that serves peace.
Pope Francis: Who has ears to hear
Assembly: Let him hear
Pope Francis: Who has a heart to consent
Assembly: Let him consent[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]