The General Audience was held at 10:00 o’clock this morning in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Today’s General Audience was the last one of the year. Since March 27, Pope Francis has held 30 General Audiences, for which the Prefecture of the Papal Household issued 1,548,500 entrance tickets, but often the participants were greater in number, sometimes exceeding 100,000, so much so that many times giant-screens were set up in Pius XII Square, and the via della Conciliazione was made a pedestrian area up to the via Traspontina.
In his address in Italian Pope Francis focused his meditation on the mystery of Christmas, now close.
After the summaries in several languages, Pope Francis addressed particular greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience concluded with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning,
Our meeting is taking place in the spiritual climate of Advent, made even more intense by the Holy Christmas Novena, which we are living in these days and which leads us to the Christmas celebrations. Because of this I would like to reflect with you today on the day of birth of Jesus, feast of trust and hope, which overcomes uncertainty and pessimism. And the reason for our hope is this: God is with us and God has confidence in us again! But think well on this: God is with us and God has confidence in us again. This God Father is generous! He comes to dwell with men, chooses the earth as his dwelling to be together with man and have himself found where man spends his days in joy and sorrow. Therefore, the earth is no longer only a “vale of tears,” but a place where God himself has pitched his tent; it is the place of God’s encounter with man, of God’s solidarity with men.
God willed to share our human condition to the point of becoming one with us in the person of Jesus, who is true man and true God. However, there is something that is even more surprising. The presence of God in the midst of humanity was not acted in an ideal, idyllic world, but in this real world, marked by so many good and evil things, marked by divisions, wickedness, poverty, arrogance and wars. He has chosen to inhabit our history as it is, with all the weight of its limitations and dramas. By doing so, He has demonstrated in an unsurpassable way his merciful inclination filled with love for human creatures. He is the God-with-us; Jesus is God-with-us. Do you believe this? Let us make this profession together: Jesus is God-with-us! Jesus is God-with-us always and forever in the sufferings and griefs of history. Jesus’ Birth is the manifestation that God has “aligned” himself once and for all on the side of man, to save us, to raise us from the dust of our miseries, of our difficulties, of our sins.
From whence comes the great “gift” of the Babe of Bethlehem: He brings us spiritual energy, an energy that helps us not to sink in our toils, in our despairs, in our sadnesses because it is an energy that warms and transforms the heart. Jesus’ birth, in fact, brings us the good news that we are loved immensely and individually by God, and not only does He make this love known to us, but he gives it to us and communicates it to us!
From the joyful contemplation of the mystery of the Son of God born for us, we can draw two considerations.
The first is that if at Christmas God revels himself not as one who is on High and who controls the universe, but as one who abases himself, who descends on earth small and poor, it means that to be like him we must not put ourselves above others, but rather lower ourselves, putting ourselves at the servicemaking ourselves little with the little and poor with the poor. But it is not nice to see a Christian who does not want to lower himself, who does not want to serve. A Christian who shows off everywhere is nasty: he is not a Christian, he is a pagan. A Christian serves, lowers himself. Let us work so that these brothers and sisters of ours will not feel alone!
The second consequence: if God, through Jesus, involved himself with man to the point of becoming like one of us, it means that whatever we have done to a brother or a sister we have done it to Him. Jesus himself reminded us of this: he who fed, welcomed, visited, loved one of the littlest and poorest among men, did it to the Son of God.
Let us entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, so that she will help us this Holy Christmas, now near, to recognize in the face of our neighbor, especially of the weakest and most marginalized persons, the image of the Son of God made man.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]