Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Humanity "is connected to Mary, the Mother of God. We should not believe that she is there, far away, and we are here. No, God kept her from original sin, but he calls us by name and surname to lead a saintly life," Pope Francis said today during the Angelus on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Later today, in accordance with an ancient tradition," the pontiff will visit the statue of the Virgin in Piazza di Spagna "to entrust Rome, the Church and all humanity."
Someone like Mary, Francis said before the Marian prayer, draws our attention. "With great joy, the Church contemplates her as the 'favoured one' (Lk, 1:28). Let us all greet her together as the 'favoured one'. Let us say it three times (and the crowd in the square invoked Mary three times). This is how God looked upon her from the start of his plan of love. He saw her as beautiful, full of grace. How beautiful our mother Mary is! Mary sustains us on our journey towards Christmas, because she teaches us how to live this time of Advent waiting for the Lord. Because this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord, who will visit everyone, during the feast, but also in everyone's heart. The Lord is coming, let us wait for him. "
The pope went on to say that the Gospel of Saint Luke presents her as "young woman from Nazareth, a small town in the Galilee, on the edges of the Roman Empire but also Israel. A small town. Yet on her, the young woman from this far away village, the Lord set his eyes, choosing her to be the mother of his Son. In light of this motherhood, Mary was kept from original sin, i.e. from the break with the communion with God, others and creation, which deeply wounds every human being. This break was first put right in the Mother of the one who came to free us from the slavery of sin. The Immaculate Mary is inscribed in God's plan; she is the fruit of God's love that saves the world."
Our Lady never moved away from that love. "Her whole life, her whole being is a 'yes' to that love; it is a 'yes' to God. But it certainly was not easy for her! When the angel called her the 'favoured one' (Lk, 1:28), she was "very upset" because in her humility she felt she was nothing before God. In comforting her, the angel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus (Ibid, 1-30:31). This upset her even more because she was not yet married to Joseph. And the angel responded, 'The holy Spirit will come upon you. . . . Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God' (Ibid. 1-35). As Mary listened, she inwardly obeyed and replied, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word' (Ibid, 1-38)."
The mystery of this young woman from Nazareth is not foreign to us, Francis noted. "She is not there and we here. No, we are connected. In fact, God casts his loving gaze on every man and every woman. His loving gaze is upon each of us, name and surname. The Apostle Paul said that God 'chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish' (Ephesians, 1:4). We too, always, are chosen by God to lead a saintly life, free from sin. God renews this project of love every time we come near Him, especially through the sacraments. On this feast day, then, contemplating our beautiful Immaculate Mother, we also acknowledge that our true destiny, our deepest vocation, is that of being loved and being transformed by love. In order to be transformed by God's beauty, let us look at her and be looked by her for she is our mother and loves us very much. Let us be looked by her so that we may learn to be more humble, and also more courageous and follow the Word of God, receive the tender embrace of her Son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope and peace."
Right after the Angelus prayer and greetings to the groups present - with a special thought for the Church of Canada, which is celebrating the anniversary of its parish, and the Azione cattolica italiana - the pope said that this afternoon, "in accordance with an ancient tradition, I will go to Piazza di Spagna to pray at the foot of the monument to the Immaculate. I ask you to join me spiritually in this pilgrimage, which is an act of filial devotion to Mary, to entrust the city of Rome, the Church and the whole of humanity to her. Upon my return, I shall stop for a moment at Santa Maria Maggiore to greet with a prayer the Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People). I wish you all a good Sunday and a happy feast of our Mother. Have a good lunch and see you soon."