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
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
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
"‘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.