Pope: May Advent shake our prejudices about God and eachother
The tradition blessing of the 'bambinello' or infant Jesus for Nativity Scenes of the faithful in St Peter's Square at the Angelus: "Pray that he may bring a ray of peace to the whole world". An appeal for reconciliation after new clashes in South Sudan, where the pontiff is expected at the beginning of February. Greetings to the mountain people from whom he learned "the sense of community and the ability to walk together".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "God is always greater than what we imagine him to be; the works he performs are surprising compared to our calculations; his action is different, it exceeds our needs and our expectations; and therefore we must never stop seeking him and converting ourselves to his true face," said Pope Francis today addressing the faithful present in St Peter's Square for the Angelus prayer.
This Sunday - with the children from the Roman parishes - he renewed the gesture of the blessing the statues of the Baby Jesus for their Christmas cribs.
"Pray to him so that he may bring a ray of peace to the whole world," Francis returned to repeat to them, "and especially in the war in Ukraine that destroys so many lives and so many children".
But he also launched an appeal for the African populations of South Sudan - a country that the pontiff is preparing to visit at the beginning of February together with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the moderator of the Church of Scotland - where violent clashes have re-exploded in recent days.
"May the attacks cease and civilians be spared," the pope said.
Before the Angelus prayer, commenting on the Gospel passage proposed by the liturgy today, he had dwelt on John the Baptist who - in the darkness of the prison - is seized with doubt as to whether Jesus is really the Messiah.
"We are surprised," he remarked, "that this should happen to John, who had baptised Jesus in the Jordan and pointed him out to his disciples as the Lamb of God. Even the greatest believer goes through the tunnel of doubt. And this is not a bad thing; on the contrary, sometimes it is essential for spiritual growth'.
Francis quoted in this regard the words of the theologian Henri de Lubac, when he said that God "needs to be rediscovered in stages... sometimes believing that we are losing him".
"This is what the Baptist does," the pope commented, "in doubt, he still seeks Him, questions Him, 'discusses' with Him and finally rediscovers Him".
"But we too," he added, "can sometimes find ourselves in his situation, in an inner prison, unable to recognise the newness of the Lord, whom we perhaps keep prisoner of the presumption of already knowing so much about Him. Perhaps we also come to say to Him: 'Are You really, so humble, the God who comes to save us?' I do not understand. And something similar can also happen to us with our brothers: we have our own ideas, our own prejudices, and we attach rigid labels to others'.
Hence the invitation to live Advent as "a time of overturning perspectives, where we allow ourselves to be amazed by the greatness of God's mercy"; "a time when, instead of thinking about gifts for ourselves, we can give words and gestures of consolation to those who are wounded, as Jesus did with the blind, the deaf and the lame".
In his greetings to the faithful, the Pope finally mentioned the figure of the young Isabel Cristina Mrad Campos, who died at the age of 20 in 1982 'in hatred of the faith and for having defended her dignity as a woman', proclaimed blessed yesterday in Brazil .
"May she inspire young people," he added, "to bear generous witness to faith and the joy of the Gospel".
Then recalling today's World Mountain Day - which this year focuses on the contribution of women - Francis urged that we learn from the mountain people "the sense of community and the ability to walk together".