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Monday, November 21, 2016

0497: Reflections on the First Sunday of Advent
by Pope Francis



Entry 0497: Reflections on the First Sunday of Advent    
 by Pope Francis 


On two occasions during his pontificate, Pope Francis has delivered reflections on the First Sunday of Advent, on 1 December 2013 and 29 November 2015. Here are the texts of a brief address prior to the recitation of the Angelus and two homilies delivered on these occasions.


POPE FRANCIS

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2013

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today, on the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year; that is, a new journey of the People of God with Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, who guides us through history toward the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, this day has a special charm, it makes us experience deeply the meaning of history. We rediscover the beauty of all being on a journey: the Church, with her vocation and mission, and all humanity, peoples, civilizations, cultures, all on a journey across the paths of time.

But where are we journeying? Is there a common goal? And what is this goal? The Lord responds to us through the prophet Isaiah, saying: “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’”(2:2-3). This is what Isaiah says regarding the goal toward which we are traveling. It is a universal pilgrimage toward a common goal, which in the Old Testament is Jerusalem, where the Temple of the Lord rises. For from there, from Jerusalem came the revelation of the Face of God and of his Law. Revelation found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, and he, the Word made flesh, became the “Temple of the Lord:” he is both guide and goal of our pilgrimage, of the pilgrimage of the entire People of God; and in his light the other peoples may also walk toward the Kingdom of justice, toward the Kingdom of peace. The Prophet continues: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (2:4). Allow me to repeat what the Prophet says; listen carefully: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” But when will this occur? What a beautiful day it shall be, when weapons are dismantled in order to be transformed into tools for work! What a beautiful day that shall be! And this is possible! Let us bet on hope, on the hope for peace, and it will be possible!

This journey never comes to an end. Just as in each of our lives we always need to begin again, to get up again, to rediscover the meaning of the goal of our lives, so also for the great human family it is always necessary to rediscover the common horizon toward which we are journeying. The horizon of hope! This is the horizon that makes for a good journey. The season of Advent, which we begin again today, restores this horizon of hope, a hope which does not disappoint for it is founded on God’s Word. A hope which does not disappoint, simply because the Lord never disappoints! He is faithful! He does not disappoint! Let us think about and feel this beauty.

The model of this spiritual disposition, of this way of being and journeying in life, is the Virgin Mary. A simple girl from the country who carries within her heart the fullness of hope in God! In her womb, God’s hope took flesh, it became man, it became history: Jesus Christ. Her Magnificat is the canticle of the People of God on a journey, and of all men and women who hope in God and in the power of his mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by her, she who is mother, a mamma and knows how to guide us. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by her during this season of active waiting and watchfulness.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ROMAN PARISH
OF SAINT CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2013

In the First Reading we heard the Prophet Isaiah speak to us about a journey, and he says that in the latter days, at the end of the journey, the mountain of the Lord’s Temple shall be established as the highest mountain. He says this to tell us that our life is a journey: we must go on this journey to arrive at the mountain of the Lord, to encounter Jesus. The most important thing that can happen to a person is to meet Jesus: this encounter with Jesus who loves us, who has saved us, who has given his life for us. Encounter Jesus. And we are journeying in order to meet Jesus.

We could ask ourselves this question: But when do I meet Jesus? Only at the end? No, no! We meet him every day. How? In prayer, when you pray, you meet Jesus. When you receive Communion, you meet Jesus in the Sacraments. When you bring your child to be baptized, you meet Jesus, you find Jesus. And today, you who are receiving Confirmation, you too will encounter Jesus; then you will meet him in Communion. “And then, Father, after Confirmation, goodbye?” because they say that Confirmation is called “the sacrament of goodbye.” Is this true or not? After Confirmation you never go back to Church: true or false? So, so! However, after Confirmation even, our whole life is an encounter with Jesus: in prayer, when we go to Mass, and when we do good works, when we visit the sick, when we help the poor, when we think of others, when we are not selfish, when we are loving, in these things we always meet Jesus. And the journey of life is precisely this: journeying in order to meet Jesus.

And today, it is also a joy for me to come and visit you, because today in the Mass we shall all meet Jesus, and we will walk a portion of the journey together.

Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey. It is for the Christian to continually encounter Jesus, to watch him, to let himself be watched over by Jesus, because Jesus watches us with love; he loves us so much, he loves us so much and he is always watching over us. To encounter Jesus also means allowing oneself to be gazed upon by him. “But, Father, you know,” one of you might say to me, “you know that this journey is horrible for me, I am such a sinner, I have committed many sins, how can I encounter Jesus?” And you know that the people whom Jesus most sought out were the greatest sinners; and they reproached him for this, and the people—those who believed themselves righteous—would say: this is no true prophet, look what lovely company he keeps! He was with sinners. And he said: I came for those in need of salvation, in need of healing. Jesus heals our sins. And along the way Jesus comes and forgives us—all of us sinners, we are all sinners—even when we make a mistake, when we commit a sin, when we sin. And this forgiveness that we receive in Confession is an encounter with Jesus. We always encounter Jesus.

So let us go forward in life like this, as the Prophet says, to the mountain, until the day when we shall attain the final encounter, when we will be able to look upon the beautiful gaze of Jesus, it is so beautiful. This is the Christian life: to walk, to go forward, united as brothers and sisters, loving one another. Encounter Jesus. Do you agree, the nine of you? Do you want to meet Jesus in your lives? Yes? This is important in the Christian life. Today, with the seal of the Holy Spirit, you will have greater strength for the journey, for the encounter with Jesus. Take courage, do not be afraid! Life is this journey. And the most beautiful gift is to meet Jesus. Go forward, be brave!

And now, let us proceed with the Sacrament of Confirmation.


APOSTOLIC JOURNEY
TO KENYA, UGANDA AND THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

HOLY MASS WITH PRIESTS, MEN AND WOMEN RELIGIOUS, CATECHISTS
AND YOUNG PEOPLE

HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS

Cathedral of Bangui, Central African Republic, First Sunday of Advent,
 29 November 2015

On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season of joyful expectation of the Savior and a symbol of Christian hope, God has brought me here among you, in this land, while the universal Church is preparing for the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which we inaugurated here today. I am especially pleased that my pastoral visit coincides with the opening of this Jubilee Year in your country. From this cathedral I reach out, in mind and heart, and with great affection, to all the priests, consecrated men and women, and pastoral workers of the nation, who are spiritually united with us at this moment. Through you, I would greet all the people of the Central African Republic: the sick, the elderly, those who have experienced life’s hurts. Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness. All of us are looking for God’s grace, for the alms of peace.

But like the Apostles Peter and John on their way to the Temple, who had neither gold nor silver to give to the paralytic in need, I have come to offer God’s strength and power; for these bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life, to “go across to the other side” (see Lk 8:22).

Jesus does not make us cross to the other side alone; instead, he asks us to make the crossing with him, as each of us responds to his or her own specific vocation. We need to realize that making this crossing can only be done with him, by freeing ourselves of divisive notions of family and blood in order to build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need. This presupposes closeness to our brothers and sisters; it implies a spirit of communion. It is not primarily a question of financial means; it is enough just to share in the life of God’s people, in accounting for the hope which is in us (see 1 Pet 3:15), in testifying to the infinite mercy of God who, as the Responsorial Psalm of this Sunday’s liturgy makes clear, is “good [and] instructs sinners in the way” (Ps 24:8). Jesus teaches us that our heavenly Father “makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn. This is our fundamental vocation: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

One of the essential characteristics of this vocation to perfection is the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation. Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony (see Mt 5:46-47). Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy. This is how we can help our brothers and sisters to “cross to the other side”—by showing them the secret of our strength, our hope, and our joy, all of which have their source in God, for they are grounded in the certainty that he is in the boat with us. As he did with the apostles at the multiplication of the loaves, so too the Lord entrusts his gifts to us, so that we can go out and distribute them everywhere, proclaiming his reassuring words: “Behold, the days are coming when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer 33:14).

In the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy, we can see different aspects of this salvation proclaimed by God; they appear as signposts to guide us on our mission. First of all, the happiness promised by God is presented as justice. Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Savior, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due. Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice (see Jer 33:15). He comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings. And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that “Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it shall be called, ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (Jer 33:16). Yes, God is righteousness; God is justice. This, then, is why we Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.

The salvation of God which we await is also flavored with love. In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love (see 1 Jn 4:8). In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love. In encouraging the priests, consecrated men and woman, and committed laity who, in this country live, at times heroically, the Christian virtues, I realize that the distance between this demanding ideal and our Christian witness is at times great. For this reason I echo the prayer of Saint Paul: “Brothers and sisters, may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men and women” (1 Th 3:12). Thus what the pagans said of the early Christians will always remain before us like a beacon: “See how they love one another, how they truly love one another” (Tertullian, Apology, 39, 7).

Finally, the salvation proclaimed by God has an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail. After announcing to his disciples the terrible signs that will precede his coming, Jesus concludes: “When these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). If Saint Paul can speak of a love which “grows and overflows,” it is because Christian witness reflects that irresistible power spoken of in the Gospel. It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory (see Lk 21:27) and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas. God is stronger, more powerful, than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships. Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be one of love and peace!

To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace. As followers of Christ, dear priests, religious and lay pastoral workers, here in this country, with its suggestive name, situated in the heart of Africa and called to discover the Lord as the true centre of all that is good, your vocation is to incarnate the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens. May the Lord deign to “strengthen your hearts in holiness, that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Th 3:13). Reconciliation, forgiveness, love and peace! Amen

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For reflections on the First Sunday of Advent 

 by Pope Benedict XVI,
please scroll down to the bottom of this page.


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