On The Fruits of Conversion

"It Is There, in Our Conduct, That We Must Show That We Are Following His Will"

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Sunday Angelus address in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!

The Gospel for this Sunday of Advent again presents the figure of John the Baptist, and it depicts him speaking to the people who have come to him at the Jordan River to be baptized. Because John speaks to them with tough words, exhorting them to prepare themselves for the coming of the Messiah, some ask him, “What must we do?” (Luke 3:10, 12, 14). These dialogues are very interesting and show themselves to be of great contemporary relevance.

The first reply is addressed to the crowd in general. The Baptist says: “Whoever has 2 tunics, give 1 to someone who has none, and whoever has food to eat, do the same” (3:11). Here we can see a criterion of justice animated by charity. Justice demands that the imbalance between those who have more than enough and those who lack the necessities be overcome; charity moves us to be attentive to others and to meet their needs rather than looking for justifications to defend our interests. Justice and charity are not opposed but both are necessary and complete each other. “There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbor is indispensable” (“Deus caritas est,” 28).

And then there is the second reply, which is directed toward some “publicans,” those who collected taxes for the Romans. Already for this reason the publicans were despised, but also because they often took advantage of their position to steal. The Baptist does not tell them to change their job but not to exact more than what is required (3:13). The prophet, in God’s name, does not ask for exceptional actions, but first of all the honest performance of one’s duties. The first step toward eternal life is always the observance of the commandments, in this case the seventh: “Do not steal” (cf. Exodus 20:15).

The third reply regards the soldiers, another category with a certain power, and so with a temptation to abuse it. To the soldiers John says: “Do not mistreat anyone or extort; be content with your pay” (3:14). Here, too, conversion begins with honesty and with respect for others: an instruction that holds good for everyone, especially those with greater responsibility.

Taking these dialogues together, the very concrete words spoken by John is striking: from the moment that God will judge us according to our deeds, it is there, in our conduct, that we must show that we are following his will. And precisely for this reason the Baptist’s instructions are always relevant: even in our very complex world, things would go much better if everyone observed these rules of conduct. So let us pray to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that he help us to prepare ourselves for Christmas bearing the good fruits of conversion (cf. Luke 3:8).

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters,

From December 28 to January 2 the European meeting of young people organized by the community of Taizé will take place. I thank the families, who, following the Roman tradition of hospitality, have made themselves available to host these young people. Since, thanks be to God, the requests are greater than the space that has been made available so far, I renew the request already made in parishes, that more families, with complete simplicity, might open up to this great experience of Christian friendship.

[In English he said:]

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Angelus. I was deeply saddened by Friday’s senseless violence in Newtown, Connecticut. I assure the families of the victims, especially those who lost a child, of my closeness in prayer. May the God of consolation touch their hearts and ease their pain. During this Advent Season, let us dedicate ourselves more fervently to prayer and to acts of peace. Upon those affected by this tragedy, and upon each of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!

[Again in Italian he said:]

Today I offer a special greeting to the children of Rome! You have come for the traditional blessing of the statues of the baby Jesus. Dear ones, as I bless the little statues of Jesus that you will put in your crèches, I bless each of you and your families from my heart along with teachers and the Center of the Roman Oratories.

Lastly, I greet the Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially the faithful of Palazzo Adriano, Porto San Giorgio, Grottammare, San Lorenzello, Atella, Bucchianico and Valmontone. I greet the group of students from the De Merode Institute in Rome who are also with some fellow Australian students from Adelaide, as well as representatives of ZENIT religious news agency. 

[Concluding in Italian he said:]

I wish every a good Sunday and a good spiritual journey toward Bethlehem! Have a good Sunday! Greetings!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]