Vatican City (AsiaNews) - After a very difficult trial, after a dark period, "with the birth of Christ comes the time of consolation. Sadness and fear can make room for joy, because the Lord himself will lead his people on the path of liberation and salvation," said Pope Francis before the Marian prayer of the Angelus in his address to the tens of thousands of faithful gathered in St Peter's Square.
Francis spoke about the second Sunday of Advent, a "great time" that awakens in us "the expectation of Christ's return and the memory of his historical coming." He focused on the message "full of hope" that the liturgy presents today in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Comfort, give comfort to my people".
With such words, said the pontiff, the prophet "addressed to the people in exile the joyful proclamation of liberation. The time of trouble is ended; the people of Israel can look forward with confidence to the future: finally it can expect to return home".
Isaiah, the pope explained, "turns to people who went through a dark period, who underwent a very difficult trial. But now, the time has come for consolation. Sadness and fear can make room for joy, because the Lord himself will lead his people on the path of liberation and salvation."
But how will He do all this? "With the care and tenderness of a shepherd who takes care of his flock. Indeed, he will give unity and security to the flock, let it graze, gather the scattered sheep in his safe fold, and pay particular attention to the most fragile and weak (see 11). This is God's attitude toward us, his creatures. Therefore, the prophet calls on his listeners - including us today - to spread among the people this message of hope."
The pope went on to say that "we cannot be messengers of God's consolation" unless we first experience ourselves the joy of being comforted and loved by Him, through prayer - This with the Gospel, carry it always in your pocket! - the Eucharist or confession."
"Isaiah's call must however resound in our hearts. Today we need people who are witnesses of the mercy and tenderness of the Lord, which shakes the resigned, revives the discouraged, [and] lights the fire of hope. Many situations require our comforting witness. I am thinking about those who are oppressed by suffering, injustice and oppression, about those who are slaves of money, power, success, and worldliness. We are all called to console our brothers, testifying that only God can eliminate the causes of existential and spiritual dramas."
In short, Isaiah's message is "a balm on our wounds and an incentive to prepare diligently the way of the Lord." The prophet, in fact, "speaks to our hearts today to tell us that God forgets our sins and comforts us. If we entrust ourselves to Him with a humble and repentant heart, He will bring down the walls of evil, fill the holes of our omissions, level the bumps of pride and vanity, and open the path towards meeting with him."
Curiously, Francis said, "sometimes we feel better in sadness than in consolation. Why? Because we feel like we are the leading character, whilst in consolation the Holy Spirit plays the leading role. It is he who comforts us, and this is conversion! Please, let yourself be consoled by the Lord!"
The Virgin Mary, the pope concluded, "is the 'way' by which God prepared himself to come into the world. We entrust to her the expectation of salvation and peace for all men and women of our time."