POPE FRANCIS: MARY, MODEL OF FAITH AND CHARITY.
Below you have the ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today, Sec. 23, 2018 before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
* * *
Before the Angelus:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
The liturgy of this Fourth Sunday of Advent puts in the first place the figure of Mary, the Virgin Mother, waiting to give birth to Jesus, the Saviour of the world. We fix our gaze on Her, model of faith and of charity, and we can ask ourselves: what were Her thoughts in the months of waiting? The answer comes, in fact, from today’s evangelical passage, the account of Mary’s visit to her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth (Cf. Luke 1:39-45). The Angel Gabriel had revealed to Her that Elizabeth was expecting a son and that she was already in her sixth month (Cf. Luke 1:26.36). And then the Virgin, who had just conceived Jesus by the work of God, left in haste from Nazareth in Galilee to reach the hills of Judea and meet Her cousin.
The Gospel says: “And She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (v. 40). No doubt she congratulated her for her maternity, like Elizabeth, in turn, greeted Mary saying: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (vv. 42-43). And, immediately, she praises Her faith: “And blessed is She who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to Her from the Lord” (v. 45). Evident is the contrast between Mary, who had faith, and Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, who had doubted and did not believe the Angel’s promise, and so remained mute until John’s birth. It’s a comparison.
This episode helps us to read with an altogether particular light the mystery of man’s encounter with God; an encounter that is not marked by amazing miracles but, rather, is marked by faith and charity. Mary, in fact, is blessed because she believed; the encounter with God is the fruit of faith. Zachariah, instead, who doubted and didn’t believe, remained deaf-mute, to grow in faith during the long silence: without faith, we remain inevitably deaf to God’s consoling voice. And we remain incapable of pronouncing words of consolation and hope for our brothers. And we see it every day: people that don’t have faith or who have very little faith, when they must approach a person who is suffering say circumstantial words but are unable to reach the heart because they lack strength. They don’t have strength because they don’t have faith, and if they don’t have faith, the words don’t come that reach others’ heart. Faith, in turn, is nourished in charity. The evangelist narrates that “Mary arose and went in haste” (v. 39) to Elizabeth’s house.: in haste, not in anxiety, not anxious, but in haste, in peace. “She rose” — a gesture full of care. She could have stayed at home, to prepare for Her Son’s birth, instead, she is concerned first with others than herself, demonstrating in the facts of being already a disciple of that Lord She was bearing in Her womb. The event of Jesus’ birth began thus, with a simple gesture of charity; after all, genuine charity is always the fruit of the love of God.
The Gospel of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, which we heard today in the Mass, prepares us to live Christmas well, communicating to one another the dynamism of faith and of charity. This dynamism is the work of the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of Love that fecundated Mary’s virginal womb and that drove Her to run to the service of Her elderly kinswoman. A dynamism full of joy, as is seen in the meeting between the two mothers, which is altogether a joyous hymn of exultance in the Lord, who does great things with little ones who trust Him.
May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace to live an extroverted Christmas, but not dispersed, extroverted: may our “I” not be at the center, but the “You” of Jesus and the “you” of brothers, especially of those who are in need of a hand. Then we’ll leave room for Love that, also today, wills to become flesh and come to dwell in our midst.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester in https://zenit.org/articles/angelus-address-fourth-sunday-of-advent-which-highlights-the-figure-of-mary/