12/15/2013, 00.00
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Pope: The Church is not a haven for sad people, it is the house of joy!

Ahead of reciting the Angelus on the third Sunday of Advent, Francis reminds the faithful that " like hope, Christian joy is rooted in the faithfulness of God , knowing that He always keeps His promises." Immediately after the Marian prayer, the Pope blesses the "Baby Jesus" statues for the nativity scenes in the homes of the faithful and says: "When you pray in front of the nativity scene , remember me like I remember you."

Vatican City ( AsiaNews ) - The Church "is not a haven for sad people. The Church is the house of joy: but that the Gospel is not just any joy. It is motivated by the knowledge that we are wanted and loved by God". This was Pope Francis' message today, the third Sunday of Advent or "Gaudete Sunday" as he was welcomed by hundreds of Roman children who arrived in St. Peter's Square for the blessing of the "Baby Jesus" statues that they will place in their nativity scenes at home. The Pope told them: "When you pray in front of your crib, remember me like I remember you. Thank you, and Merry Christmas".

Under the rain that began to fall - the Pope comforted those present saying " I'm sorry you are under the rain, but I am with you , have courage!" - Francis added: "Today is the third Sunday of Advent , also called ' Gaudete Sunday ' , the Sunday of joy . Several times in the liturgy the call to rejoice resounds, rejoice because the Lord is near. Christmas is near. The Christian message is called "Gospel" that is "good news," a proclamation of joy for all people, the Church is not a haven for sad people , the Church is the house of joy! Those who are sad, find joy in it. True joy".

But the joy of the Gospel, continued the Pope, "is not just any joy. It is motivated by the knowledge that we are wanted and loved by God, as the prophet Isaiah reminds us today (cf. 35.1 .8 a.10 -6a ), God is He who comes to save us, and lends Himself especially to the rescue of a fearful heart . His coming among us strengthens us; it renders us solid, gives courage, the desert rejoices and the steppe bloom; our lives become dry without the water of God's Word and His Spirit of love. No matter how great our limitations and our being lost, we are not allowed to be weak and vacillating in the face of difficulties and our own weaknesses. Instead, we are invited to strengthen our hands, make firm our knees, to have courage and not fear, for our God always shows the greatness of His mercy".

Then Pope Francis added in unscripted remarks: "He gives us the strength to go on, He is always with us, to help us move forward: a God who loves us so much. He loves us. And is with us, to help us to grow stronger and move on. Courage, always forward! with His help, we can always start over. Someone may say to me father , I've done so many things, I am a great sinner , I can not start over. Wrong! You can because he is close to you, He gives you the strength to start all over again. We are able to open our eyes again, overcome sadness and tears and sing a new song".

And this joy "is also in evidence, even in suffering, because it is not superficial, but descends into the depths of the person who trusts in God and entrusts his or her self to Him. Christian joy, like hope, has its foundation in the faithfulness of God , knowing that He always keeps His promises. Isaiah the prophet exhorts those who have lost their way and are in despair to rely on the faithfulness of the Lord, because His salvation will not delay to break into their lives. Many have met Jesus along the way , experiencing a serenity and joy of heart that nothing and nobody can deprive them of. Our joy is Jesus Christ, his faithful and inexhaustible love ! Therefore, when a Christian becomes sad we could say that he or she has turned away from Jesus . But then we must not leave him alone, we must pray for him, and let him feel the warmth of the community".

The Virgin Mary, the Pope concluded, "helps us to hasten our steps toward Bethlehem to meet the Child that is born for us, for the salvation and happiness of all mankind. The Angel said to her: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you "(Lk 1:28). May she help us to live the joy of the gospel in the home, at work, in the parish and in any environment? A deep joy , with wonder and tenderness. That same joy of a mother who looks at her newborn baby, and feel that it is a gift from God , a miracle for which she can only give thanks".



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