On the Third Sunday of Advent
"The Word of the Lord Does Not Pass"
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
On this Third Sunday of Advent the liturgy proposes a passage from the Letter of St. James that opens with this exhortation: "Be constant, my brothers, until the coming of the Lord" (James 5:7). It seems to me more important than ever in our days to underscore the importance of constancy and patience, virtues that belonged to the generation of our fathers but which are less popular today in a world that instead exalts change and the capacity always to adapt to new situations. Without taking anything away from these latter, which are also qualities of the human being, Advent calls us to strengthen that interior tenacity, that resistance of the soul that permits us not to despair in waiting for some good thing that is late in coming, but to expect it, indeed, to prepare for its arrival with an active confidence.
"Learn from the farmer," St. James writes, "he awaits with constancy the precious fruit of the earth until it has received the first and the last rains. You too must be constant, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near" (James 5:7-8). The comparison with the farmer is quite expressive: He who has sown seeds in the field has before him some months of patient and constant expectation, but he knows that in the meantime the seed goes through its cycle thanks to the autumn and spring rains. The farmer is not a fatalist, but is the model of a mentality that unites faith and reason in a balanced way because, on one hand, he knows the laws of nature and does his work well, and, on the other hand, he trusts in Providence, because certain basic things are not in his hands but in God's hands. Patience and constancy are precisely the synthesis between human effort and trust in God.
"Strengthen your hearts," Scripture says. How can we do that? How can we strengthen our hearts, which are already rather fragile, and made more unstable by the culture in which we are immersed? We do not lack help: The Word of God is there. Indeed, while everything passes and changes, the Word of the Lord does not pass. If the vicissitudes of life make us feel lost and every certainty seems to crumble, we have a compass for finding direction, we need not fear being adrift. And here the model that is offered to us by the prophets, that is, the model of those persons whom God called to speak in his name. The prophet finds his joy and his strength in the power of the Lord's Word and, while men often seek happiness along paths that turn out to be mistaken, he announces the true hope, the one that doesn't delude because it is founded on the fidelity of God. Every Christian, in virtue of his baptism, has received the prophetic dignity. May every Christian rediscover it and develop it with an assiduous listening to the Divine Word. May the Virgin Mary, whom the Gospel calls blessed because she believed that the Lord's words would be accomplished (cf. Luke 1:45), obtain this for us.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted those present in St. Peter's Square in various languages. In Italian he said:]
Dear Friends, the first greeting goes to the children and young people of Rome. Thank you for your presence! You have come for the traditional blessing of the baby Jesus figures (bambinelli) for the crèche. Dear Young Friends, when you put the child in the cave or the stable, say a prayer for the Pope and his intentions. Thank you! I also greet your parents, teachers and catechists; I thank the Center of the Roman Oratories for the initiative and the friends of the Pediatric Dispensary "Santa Maria."
[In English he said:]
I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for our "Angelus" prayer. The liturgy of this Third Sunday of Advent, marked by joyful expectation of the Lord's coming, invites us to open our eyes to the many signs of Christ's saving power in our midst. May these days of preparation for Christmas be for all of us a time of attentiveness to God's word, genuine conversion and interior renewal. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Jesus our Savior.
[In Italian he said:]
I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good week.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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