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Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 20 December 2020



Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good morning!

On this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the Gospel proposes to us once again the account of the Annunciation. “Rejoice” says the angel to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Lk 1:28, 31). It seems to be an announcement of pure joy, destined to make the Virgin happy. Who among the women of that time, did not dream of becoming the mother of the Messiah? But along with joy, those words foretell a great trial to Mary. Why? Because at that time she was “betrothed” (v. 27).

In such cases, the Law of Moses stated that there should be no relations or cohabitation. Therefore, by having a son, Mary would have transgressed the Law, and the punishment for women was terrible: stoning (cf. Dt 22:20-21). Certainly, the divine message would have filled Mary’s heart with light and strength; nevertheless, she found herself faced with a crucial decision: to say “yes” to God, risking everything, even her life, or to decline the invitation and continue along her ordinary journey.

What does she do? She responds thus: “Let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). “Let it be ” (“Fiat ”). But in the language in which the Gospel is written, it is not simply “let it be”. The verbal expression indicates a strong desire; it indicates the will that something happen. In other words, Mary does not say: “If it has to happen, let it happen..., if it cannot be otherwise…”. It is not resignation. She does not express a weak and submissive acceptance, but rather she expresses a strong desire, a sincere desire. She is not passive, she is active. She does not defer to God, she cleaves to God. She is a woman in love prepared to serve her Lord completely and immediately. She could have asked for a little time to think  it over, or even for more explanations about what would happen; perhaps she could have set some conditions.... Instead, she does not take her time, she does not keep God waiting, she does not delay.

How often — let us think of ourselves now — how often our life is made up of postponements, even the spiritual life! For example, I know it is good for me to pray, but today I do not have time … “tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow”. We postpone things: I will do it tomorrow. I know it is important to help someone — yes, I must do it: I will do it tomorrow. It is the same chain of tomorrows ... postponing things. Today, on the threshold of Christmas, Mary invites us not to postpone, to say “yes”: “Do I have to pray? — Yes” — and I pray. “Do I have to help others? — Yes”. “How shall I do it?”  — I do it. Without putting it off. Every “yes” costs something; every “yes” has its cost, but it still costs less than what that courageous “yes” cost her, that prompt “yes", that “let it be to me according to your word ”, which brought us salvation.

What, then is the “yes” we can say? Instead of complaining in these difficult times about what the pandemic prevents us from doing, let us do something for someone who has less: not the umpteenth gift for ourselves and our friends, but for a person in need whom no one thinks of! And another piece of advice: in order for Jesus to be born in us, let us prepare our hearts, let us go to pray, let us not let ourselves be swept up by consumerism. “Ah, I have to buy presents, I must do this and that”. That frenzy of doing things, more and more. It is Jesus that is important. Consumerism is not found in the manger in Bethlehem: there is reality, poverty, love. Let us prepare our hearts to be like Mary’s: free of evil, welcoming, ready to receive God.

Let it be to me according to your word ”. This is the Virgin’s last word on this last Sunday of Advent, and it is the invitation to take a genuine step towards Christmas. For if the birth of Jesus does not touch our lives — mine, yours, everyone’s — if it does not touch our lives, it slips past us in vain. In the Angelus  now, we too will say “let your word be fulfilled in me ”: May Our Lady help us to say it with our lives, with our approach to these last days, to prepare ourselves well for Christmas.

After the Angelus the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters, the coronavirus pandemic has caused particular distress to maritime workers. Many of them — an estimated 400,000 worldwide — are stranded on ships, beyond the terms of their contracts, and cannot return home. I ask the Virgin Mary, Stella Maris , to comfort these people and all those experiencing difficult situations, and I urge governments to do all they can to enable them to return to their loved ones.

This year the organizers had the good idea of holding the “100 Nativity Scenes” exhibition under the Colonnade. There are many Nativity displays which are really a catechesis of the faith of the People of God. I invite you to visit the Nativity scenes under the Colonnade, to understand how people try to show through art how Jesus was born. The cribs under the Colonnade are a great catechesis of our faith.

I greet you all, people of Rome and pilgrims from various countries, families, parish groups, associations and individual faithful. May Christmas, now close at hand, be for each of us an occasion of inner renewal, of prayer, of conversion, of steps forward in faith and of fraternity among ourselves. Let us look around us; let us look especially at those who are in need: a suffering brother or sister, wherever they may be, a suffering brother or sister is one of us. He or she is Jesus in the manger: the one suffering is Jesus. Let us think a little about this. And may Christmas be closeness to Jesus in this brother and in this sister. There, in the brother or sister in need, is the Nativity to which we must go in solidarity. This is the living Nativity scene: the Nativity scene in which we will truly meet the Redeemer in the people in need. Let us therefore journey towards the Holy Night and await the fulfilment of the mystery of Salvation.

I wish everyone a happy Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me.

Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci !

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