“With God’s help, peace is possible; disarmament is possible”; but he “wants our good will. May Our Lady help us convert to God’s plans”. The Holy Father emphasized this after praying the Angelus on Thursday, 8 December, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Pope Francis invited the faithful, who had gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, to entrust themselves to Our Lady, reminding us that Mary is with us always. The following is a translation of the Holy Fathers’ reflection which was given in Italian.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Buongiorno and happy feast day!
he Gospel of today’s Solemnity takes us into Mary’s home to tell us of the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). The Angel Gabriel greets the Virgin like this: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (v. 28). He does not call her by her name, Mary, but with a new name she did not know: full of grace. Full of grace, and therefore free from sin, is the name God gives her, and which we celebrate today.
But let us think of Mary’s wonder: only then did she discover her truest identity. Indeed, by calling her by that name, God reveals to her his greatest secret, which was previously unknown to her. Something similar can also happen to us. In what sense? In the sense that we sinners have also received an initial gift that has filled our lives, a good greater than anything else: we have received an original grace. We talk a lot about original sin, but we have also received an original grace, of which we are often unaware.
What is it about? What is this original grace? It is what we received on the day of our Baptism, which is why it is good for us to remember and even to celebrate it! I will ask you a question. This grace received on the day of Baptism is important, but how many of you remember the date of your Baptism? Think about it. And if you do not remember it, when you go home, ask your godfather, your godmother, your father or mother: “When was I baptized?”, because that day is the day of the great grace, of a new life beginning, of an original grace that we have. God descended into our life that day, and we became his beloved children forever. This is our original beauty, for which to be joyful! Today, surprised by the grace that made her beautiful from the first instant of her life, Mary leads us to marvel at our beauty. We can grasp this [beauty] through the image of the white Baptismal garment. It reminds us that, beneath the evil with which we have stained ourselves throughout the years, there is a good in us that is greater than all the evils that have befallen. Let us listen to the echo, let us hear God saying to us: “Son, daughter, I love you and I am with you always, you are important to me, your life is precious”. When things do not go well and we are discouraged, when we are downcast and risk feeling useless or wrong, let us think about this, about this original grace. God is with us, God is with me from that day. Let us think about it again.
Today the Word of God teaches us another important thing: that safeguarding our beauty requires a cost, it requires a struggle. Indeed, the Gospel shows us the courage of Mary, who said “Yes” to God, who chose the risk of God. And the passage from Genesis on original sin, speaks to us of a battle against the tempter and his temptations (cf. Gen 3:15). But we know this from experience too, all of us: it takes effort to choose good; it takes effort to safeguard the good that is in us. Think of how many times we have squandered it by giving in to the lure of evil, being crafty for our own interests or doing something that would defile our hearts; or even wasting time in useless or harmful things, putting off prayer, or saying “I can’t” to someone who needed us, when instead we could have.
But today, faced with all this, we have good news: Mary, the only human being in history without sin, is with us in the battle. She is our sister and, above all, our Mother. And we, who struggle to choose good, can entrust ourselves to her. By entrusting ourselves, consecrating ourselves to Mary, we say to her: “Take me by the hand, Mother, lead me: with you, I will have more strength in the battle against evil; with you, I will rediscover my original beauty”. Let us entrust ourselves to Mary today, every day, repeating to her: “Mary, I entrust my life, my family, my work to you. I entrust my heart and my struggles. I consecrate myself to you”. May Mary Immaculate help us to safeguard our beauty from evil.
After the Marian prayer, the Bishop of Rome greeted those present and asked the faithful around the world to join him late that afternoon at the Spanish Steps to pay homage to Mary.
Dear brothers and sisters, I greet you all, people of Rome and pilgrims. In particular, I greet members of the Movement of Christian Workers and representatives from Rocca di Papa, with the torch that will light the Christmas Star at the top of their town.
On the Feast of Mary Immaculate, Italian Catholic Action is living the renewal of its membership. I address my thought to its diocesan and parish associations, encouraging everyone to go forward with joy in the service of the Gospel and of the Church.
This afternoon I will go to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major to pray to the Salus Populi Romani, and immediately afterwards, to the Spanish Steps to perform the traditional act of homage and prayer at the foot of the monument to Mary Immaculate. I ask you to join me spiritually in this gesture, which expresses filial devotion to our Mother, to whose intercession we entrust the universal desire for peace, in particular for martyred Ukraine, which is suffering greatly. I think of the Angel’s words to Mary: “With God nothing will be impossible”. With God’s help, peace is possible; disarmament is possible. But God wants our good will. May Our Lady help us convert to God’s plans.
I wish you all a blessed feast day and a good Advent journey: to all those who are here, in particular the young people of the Immacolata. It is their feast today! And please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!