(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 12.03.2023).- At midday on Sunday, December 3, a crowd of some 15,000 people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, waiting impatiently for Pope Francis to make his usual appearance in the balcony of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. The pilgrims gathered with the hope of seeing and listening to the Holy Father, leading them in the Angelus prayer. However, for the second consecutive Sunday, the Pope only appeared on the screens of Saint Peter’s Square. He has not recovered his health completely and admitted openly: “Today I will not be able to read it all either; I’m improving but my voice is not yet enabling me to do so.” Then Monsignor Braida, who among other responsibilities writes many of the Pope’s addresses, read the usual Sunday address on behalf of the Pontiff.
Here is the full text of the address:
Today, first Sunday of Advent, in the brief Gospel the liturgy offers us (cf. Mk 13: 33-37), Jesus addresses a simple and direct exhortation to us, three times: “Watch” (vv. 33, 35, 37).
Thus, the theme is vigilance. How should we understand it? Sometimes we think of this virtue as an attitude motivated by fear of impending doom, as if a meteorite were about to plunge from the sky and threaten, if we do not avoid it in time, to overwhelm us. But this is certainly not what Christian vigilance is all about!
Jesus illustrates it with a parable, speaking about a master who will return, and about his servants who await him (cf. v. 34). The servant in the Bible is the “trusted person” of the master, which whom there is often a relationship of collaboration and affection. Think, for example, that Moses is defined as the servant of God (cf. Nm 12: 7), and that even Mary says of herself, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1: 38). So, the servants’ vigilance is not one of fear, but of longing, of waiting to go forth to meet their Lord who is coming. They remain in readiness for his return because they care for him, because they have in mind that when he returns, they will make him find a welcoming and orderly home; they are happy to see him, to the point that they look forward to his return as a feast for the whole great family of which they are a part.
It is with this expectation filled with affection that we also want to prepare ourselves to welcome Jesus: at Christmas, which we will celebrate in a few weeks; at the end of time, when He will return in glory; every day, as He comes to meet us in the Eucharist, in His Word, in our brothers and sisters, especially those most in need.
So, in a special way during these weeks, let us prepare the house of the heart with care, so that it is orderly and hospitable.
In fact, keeping watch means keeping the heart ready. It is the attitude of the sentinel, who in the night is not tempted by weariness, does not fall asleep, but remains awake awaiting the coming light. The Lord is our light and it is good to dispose the heart to welcome him with prayer and to host him with charity, the two preparations that, so to speak, make him comfortable. In this regard, the story goes that Saint Martin of Tours, a man of prayer, after giving half of his cloak to a poor man, dreamed of Jesus clad in that very part of the cloak he had given. Here is a good program for Advent: to encounter Jesus coming in every brother and sister who needs us and to share with them what we can: listening, time, concrete assistance.
Dear friends, it will be good for us today to ask ourselves how we can prepare a welcoming heart for the Lord. We can do so by approaching His forgiveness, His Word, His Table, finding space for prayer, welcoming those in need. Let us cultivate His expectation without letting ourselves be distracted by so many pointless things, and without complaining all the time, but keeping our hearts alert, that is, eager for Him, awake and ready, impatient to meet Him.
May the Virgin Mary, woman of expectation, help us to receive her coming Son.