Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Before the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
In the past Sundays, the liturgy has stressed what it means to put oneself in an attitude of vigilance, and what it entails concretely to prepare the way of the Lord. In this Third Sunday of Advent, called “Sunday of joy,” the liturgy invites us to receive the spirit with which all this happens, that is, exactly, joy. Saint Paul invites us to prepare the coming of the Lord by assuming three attitudes. Listen carefully: three attitudes: first, constant joy; second, persevering prayer and third, constant thanksgiving — constant joy, persevering prayer and constant thanksgiving.
The first attitude, constant joy: “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16), says the Apostle. It means to remain always in joy, even when things don’t go according to our desires; however, there is that profound joy, which is peace: which is also joy, it’s inside. And peace is a joy “at the ground level,” but it’s a joy. Anxieties, difficulties and sufferings run through the life of each one, we all know them; and so often the reality that surrounds us seems to be inhospitable and arid, like the desert in which John the Baptist’s voice resounds, as today’s Gospel recalls (Cf. John 1:23). In fact, however, the Baptist’s words reveal that our joy rests on a certainty that this desert is inhabited: “among you stands one whom you do not know” (v. 26). It is Jesus, the One sent by the Father who is coming, as Isaiah stresses, “to bring good tidings to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those that are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (61:1-2). These words, which Jesus will make his own in Nazareth’s synagogue (Cf. Luke 4:16-19), clarify that His mission in the world consists in the liberation from sin and from the personal and social slaveries that it causes. He came on earth to give back to men the dignity and freedom of the children of God, which only He can communicate, and, therefore, to give joy.
The joy that characterizes the expectation of the Messiah is based on persevering prayer: this is the second attitude. Saint Paul says: “pray constantly” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Through prayer, we can enter a stable relationship with God, who is the source of true joy. A Christian’s joy is not purchased, it can’t be bought, it comes from faith and from the encounter with Jesus Christ, the reason of our happiness. And the more we are rooted in Christ, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we rediscover interior serenity, even in the midst of daily contradictions. Therefore, having encountered Jesus, a Christian can’t be a prophet of misfortune, but a witness and a herald of joy — a joy to be shared with others, a contagious joy that renders less exhausting the path of life.
The third attitude pointed out by Paul is constant thanksgiving, namely, grateful love in our relationship with God. In fact, He is very generous with us, and we are invited to be grateful always for His benefits, His merciful love, His patience and kindness, thus living in incessant gratitude.
Joy, prayer and gratitude are three attitudes that prepare us to live Christmas genuinely – joy, prayer and gratitude. Let us all say it together: joy, prayer and gratitude [the people in the Square repeat it] Once again! [They repeat it]. In this last stretch of the Season of Advent, we entrust ourselves to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary. She is the “cause of our joy,” not only because she generated Jesus, but because she sends us continually to Him.
On the kidnapped nuns in Nigeria
I unite myself to the heartfelt appeal of the Bishops of Nigeria for the release of the six Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, kidnapped about a month ago from their convent at Iguoriakhi. I pray insistently for them and for all other persons that find themselves in this painful condition: on the occasion of Christmas, may they be able to return finally to their homes: Hail Mary . . .
I greet all of you, families, parish groups and Associations, who have come from Rome, from Italy and from so many parts of the world. In particular, I greet the “Lobitos” group of Portugal and that of the Bolivian pilgrims. I greet the faithful of Salamanca and of Pernumia, Padua.
And now I greet affectionately the children that have come for the blessing of the “Baby Jesus’s,” organized by the Roman Oratories Center. What I can read from here is beautiful: the Oratory is in fact for each one of us. “There is always a place for you,” says the sign. There is always a place for you! When you pray at home, before the Crib with members of your family, let yourselves be drawn by the tenderness of Baby Jesus, born poor and frail in our midst, to give us His love. This is the true Christmas. If we take Jesus away, what remains of Christmas? An empty celebration. Don’t take Jesus away from Christmas! Jesus is the center of Christmas; Jesus is the true Christmas! Understood?