VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address John Paul II gave today before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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1. “Rejoice in the Lord always. …The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:4-5).
With these words of the Apostle Paul, the liturgy invites us to joy. It is the Third Sunday of Advent, called precisely because of this “Gaudete” Sunday. They are the words with which the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, wished to entitle in 1975 his memorable apostolic exhortation on Christian joy, “Gaudete in Domino!”
2. Advent is a time of joy, because it makes us relive the expectation of the happiest event in history: the birth of the Son of God of the Virgin Mary.
To know that God is not far but close, not indifferent but compassionate, not a stranger but a merciful Father who follows us lovingly while respecting our freedom — all this is reason for profound joy that different daily events cannot affect.
3. An unmistakable characteristic of Christian joy is that it can coexist with suffering, because it is totally based on love. In fact, the Lord who “is at hand,” to the point of becoming man, comes to infuse in us his joy, the joy of loving. Only in this way can one understand the serene joy of the martyrs even in the midst of trials, or the smile of charity of the saints before those who are suffering: a smile that does not offend but consoles.
“Rejoice, O full of grace, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28). The Angel’s annunciation to Mary is an invitation to joy. Let us ask the Holy Virgin for the gift of Christian joy.
[After praying the Angelus, John Paul II greeted the pilgrims as follows:]
I greet with affection the children of Rome, who have come for the traditional blessing of the images of Baby Jesus; I thank the Center of Roman Oratories, which organizes this beautiful initiative. Dear children and boys and girls, when you put the figurine of Baby Jesus in the crib, say a prayer for me and for the many people who turn to the Pope in their difficulties.
[After a brief greeting in Spanish and Polish, the Holy Father concluded in Italian:]
Merry Christmas to all!
[Translation by ZENIT]