During the Angelus Pope Francis asked the faithful to "find a moment of silence" during the week before Christmas" to enter the "grace" of the feast of God’s "closeness" to man. Mary and Joseph are "the two people who most of all have been involved in this mystery of love." The pontiff also called on the faithful to pray for dialogue in the People's Republic of the Congo, and thanked all those who extended their good wishes on his birthday.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – in his address to the pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square for today’s Angelus prayer, Pope Francis advised them to “to get into the true Christmas, that of Jesus, which is approaching, the God with us, close to us, to receive the grace of this feast, which is a grace of closeness, love, humility and tenderness”.
"This week,” he noted, “let us stop for a moment, find a moment of silence, and imagine the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph as they travelled to Bethlehem: the journey, the tiredness, but also the joy, the emotion, and then the anxiety to find a place, the concern. . . and so on. The nativity scene helps us a lot."
Earlier, Francis dwelt at length on the figures of Mary and Joseph. "These two figures, Mary and Joseph, who first accepted Jesus through faith, introduce us into the mystery of Christmas. Mary helps us adopt the attitude of willingness to welcome the Son of God in our actual life, in our flesh. Joseph encourages us to always seek God's will and follow it with total confidence. Both let themselves be approached by God."
They are “the two people who most of all have been involved in this mystery of love," said the pontiff. Speaking about today’s Gospel (Matthew 1: 18-24), the Holy Father said: "Mary is presented in the light of prophecy that says: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son’ (1:23). The Evangelist Matthew recognises what happened in Mary, who conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit without Joseph’s intervention (1:18).
The Son of God "comes" within her to become man and She welcomes him. Thus, in a unique way, God has come close to human beings by taking the flesh from a woman. To us too, in a different way, God comes with His grace to enter into our lives and give us the gift of his Son. And what do we do? Do we welcome him, do we let him get close, do we reject him, do we chase him away?
“Like Mary, who by offering herself freely to the Lord of history, allowed him to change the fate of humanity, so we too, by accepting Jesus and trying to follow him every day, can cooperate with his plan for salvation for ourselves and the world. Mary thus appears to us as a model to watch and as support upon whom we can rely in our search for God and in our commitment to be close to God in order to build the civilisation of love."
"The other protagonist of today's Gospel is Saint Joseph. The evangelist highlights how Joseph cannot alone explain to himself the event that is taking place before his eyes, namely Mary's pregnancy. However, at that moment of doubt and anguish, God comes close to him with his messenger, and he is enlightened about the nature of that motherhood, ‘For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her’ (1:20).
“Thus, faced with the extraordinary event, which certainly raises many questions in his heart, he fully trusts God who comes close to him, and, following his invitation, he does not repudiate his bride but takes her with him. By accepting Mary, Joseph accepts consciously and with love the One who was conceived in her by the wondrous work of God, to whom nothing is impossible. Joseph, a humble and righteous man (1:19), teaches us to always have trust in God, to be guided by Him with willing obedience."
"‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us’ (Mt 1:23). This proclamation of hope that unfolds at Christmas,” said the pope by way of ending, “also brings to completion the waiting for God in each of us, in the whole Church, and in the many small ones that the world despises but whom God loves."
Right after the Marian prayer, Francis asked everyone to pray "so that dialogue in the Democratic Republic of Congo may be carried out with truth, to avoid any kind of violence and for the good of the whole country." Tomorrow is the last day of presidency of Joseph Kabila, but apparently he has no intention of relinquishing power, and many fear that the demonstrations planned by the opposition, led by a presidential candidate, Étienne Tshisekedi, may lead to new violence in the country.
The pope also thanked "all the people and institutions who yesterday extended to me their good wishes" on his 80th birthday.