VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address Sunday before praying the Angelus at midday with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter´s Square.
ZENIT was unable to publish this address earlier due to technical problems.
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1. Today, the Third Sunday of Advent, the joyful proclamation “Gaudete in Domino semper — Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) is renewed. These words, which characterize today´s liturgy, are taken from Paul´s Letter to the Philippians.
This invitation to joy has a specific reason: “the Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:5) A truth noted by the pious Israelite, which brings him confidence and consolation; a truth that finds its complete foundation in Christ. In him, in fact, God has become close to every man: He is the Messiah, the “Emmanuel,” “God with us” (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). Joy is at the heart of the Gospel of Christmas.
2. As an expert Mother, the Church knows better than any other institution the difficulties and sufferings proper to human life. It well understands that in the life of so many peoples and individuals, sadness prevails over joy, anguish over hope.
But it is precisely to these men and women that the Christmas message is especially proclaimed, because “to the poor he [Christ] proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to those in sorrow, joy” (Eucharistic Prayer IV). He is the authentic liberator of man, sent by God to rescue man from the power of evil and death. From this profound and total liberation is derived the joy that Christ gives to his friends, a joy that, like his peace, is different to that of the world (see John 14:27), superficial and ephemeral.
The grave problems that harass life sometimes make it difficult to recognize these gifts of Christ. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the task of the Church is, precisely, to make them visible and to witness to their presence. Above all, humanity today longs for joy and peace. It is up to us believers, with the eloquence of love expressed in deeds, to become every day a prophetic ferment of a world reconciled by love and vivified by divine joy.
3. May Mary Most Holy, whom we invoke as “Cause of our Joy,” help us to fulfill this mission faithfully. Who more than she experienced the Lord´s closeness, source of joy and peace? We entrust ourselves to her maternal protection, so that we will always be, but especially at the present time, credible witnesses of the joy of Christ.
[Translation by ZENIT]