Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Before the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today’s liturgy, which is the fourth and last Sunday of Advent, is characterized by the theme of proximity, closeness of God to humanity. The passage from the Gospel (cf. Mt 1.18 to 24) shows us two people, the two people, who more than any other, have been involved in this mystery of love: the Virgin Mary and her husband Joseph. Mystery of love, mystery of closeness of God with humanity.
Mary is presented in the light of the prophecy that says: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (v. 23). The Evangelist Matthew recognizes what had happened in Mary, that she conceived Jesus as a work of the Holy Spirit (cf. v. 18). The Son of God “comes” from her womb to become man and she welcomes him. So, in a unique way, God approached being human, from the flesh of a woman: God came to us and took flesh from a woman. In a different way, God comes with His grace to us also, to enter into our lives and offer us the gift of his Son. And we, what do we do? Do we welcome him, we let him get close, or we reject him, we send him away? Like Mary, offering herself freely to the Lord of history, she has allowed him to change the fate of humanity, so we too, accepting Jesus and trying to follow Him every day, can cooperate with His plan for salvation, for ourselves, and the world. Mary is, therefore, a model to watch and a support we can rely on, in our search for God, in our closeness to God. In this, let God come close to us and our commitment to build a civilization of love.
The other protagonist of today’s Gospel is St. Joseph. The Evangelist highlights that Joseph alone cannot explain this event he sees occur under his eyes, namely Mary’s pregnancy. Just then, in that moment of doubt, even of anguish, God draws near – also to him – with His messenger, and he is enlightened about the nature of that motherhood: “The child that is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (v. 20). So, faced with the extraordinary event, which certainly raises many questions in his heart, he fully trusts God who approaches him and, following His invitation, does not repudiate his bride, but takes with him and marries Mary. By welcoming Mary, Joseph welcomes consciously and with love, He, who in her, was conceived through the wondrous work of God, to whom nothing is impossible. Joseph, a humble and righteous man (see v. 19), teaches us to always trust in God, Who approaches us: when God approaches us, we must trust him. Joseph teaches us to let ourselves be guided by Him, with voluntary obedience.
These two figures, Mary and Joseph, who first accepted Jesus through faith, introduce us into the mystery of Christmas. Mary helps us to put ourselves in the attitude of willingness to welcome the Son of God in our concrete lives, in our flesh. Joseph encourages us to always seek God’s will and to follow it with full confidence. Both of them allowed themselves to be approached by God.
“Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, he will be given the name Emmanuel, which means ‘God-with-us'” (Mt 1:23). So the angel says: “Emmanuel will be called the child, which means God-with-us”, that is, God close to us. And to God Who comes close, do I open the door – to the Lord – when I hear an inner inspiration, when I feel that I am asked to do more for others, when I am called to pray? God-with-us, the God who approaches. This announcement of hope, which is carried out at Christmas, brings to completion the expectation of God in each of us, in the whole Church, and in the small [insignificant and marginalized] that the world despises, but whom God loves and to whom God draws near.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]
After the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I greet you all, the faithful of Rome and pilgrims from various countries, families, church groups, and associations.
I ask you all to pray that dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo might unfold with serenity, in order that all types of violence can be avoided, and [to pray] for the good of the whole country.
In particular, I greet the large group from UNITALSI–Thank you very much for the beautiful work you do!–who gave birth to a live nativity scene including people with disabilities; as well as students of the Calabrian Institute of International Politics Calabrese.
I would like to thank all the people and institutions that yesterday, wanted to express their wishes [for Pope Francis’ 80th Birthday]. Thank you very much!
I wish you all a good Sunday: we have good weather …
Next Sunday will be Christmas. In the course of this week – I recommend – that we try to find some time to stop, take a bit of silence, and imagine the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who are going to Bethlehem. Imagine how they go: the way, the fatigue, but also the joy, emotion, and then the anxiety to find a place, the worry …, and so on. The Nativity helps, in this way. Let us enter the true Christmas, that of Jesus, Who approaches us – God-with-us, close to us – in order to receive the grace of this celebration, and the grace of closeness, love, humility and tenderness .
And in those moments, also remember to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye![Original Text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]