· Vatican City ·

At the Marian prayer the invitation to live the festivities with simplicity and to pray for those who suffer

A Christmas of sharing and humanity

 A Christmas of sharing and humanity  ING-001
05 January 2024

At the Angelus on Sunday, 24 December 2023, Pope Francis invited the faithful to celebrate Christmas in simplicity, sharing with others and in a spirit of humanity. Earlier, he had reflected on the day’s Gospel passage of Luke on the Annunciation of Mary. The following is a translation of the Pope’s words which he delivered in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Happy Sunday!

Today, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the Gospel presents the scene of the Annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). Explaining to Mary how she would conceive Jesus, the angel tells her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v. 35). Let us pause for a moment on this image, the shadow.

In a perpetually sunny land like Mary’s, a passing cloud, a tree that withstands drought and offers shelter, or a hospitable tent, bring relief and protection. Shade is a gift that refreshes, and this is precisely the way the Angel describes how the Holy Spirit descends upon Mary — God’s way of doing: God always acts as a gentle love that embraces, that makes things fruitful, that protects, without doing violence, without infringing on freedom. This is God’s way of acting.

The idea of a protecting shade is a recurring image in the Bible. Let us think of the shade that accompanies God’s people in the desert (cf. Ex 13:21-22), In a word, “shadow” describes God’s kindness. It is as if he were saying, to Mary but also to all of us today: “I am here for you and I offer myself as your refuge and your shelter: come under my shadow, stay with me”. Brothers and sisters, this is how God’s fruitful love operates. And it is also something that, in a certain way, we can experience among ourselves; for example, when among friends, couples, spouses, parents and children, we are gentle, respectful, and caring towards others with kindness. Let us reflect on God’s kindness.

This is how God loves, and he calls us to do the same: welcoming, protecting, and respecting others. Thinking of everyone, thinking of those who are marginalised, those who are far from the joy of Christmas, these days. Let us think about everyone with God’s kindness. Remember this word: the kindness of God.

And so, on Christmas Eve, let us ask ourselves: “Do I desire to allow myself to be enveloped by the shadow of the Holy Spirit, by the gentleness and meekness of God, by the kindness of God, making room for him in my heart, drawing near to his forgiveness, to the Eucharist?” And then: for which lonely and needy people could I be a shadow that restores, a friendship that comforts?

May Mary help us to be open and welcoming to the presence of God, who with meekness comes to save us.

After praying the Angelus the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters, I greet all of you, people of Rome and pilgrims from Italy and from various parts of the world. In particular, I greet the delegation of Italian citizens who live in territories officially recognised as highly polluted and who have long awaited their clean-up. I express solidarity with these populations and hope that their voices will be heard.

I wish you all a happy Sunday and a Christmas Eve in prayer, in the warmth of affection, and in simplicity. Allow me to offer some advice: let us not confuse celebration with consumerism! We can — and as Christians we must — celebrate in simplicity, without waste, and by sharing with those who lack necessities or lack companionship. We are close to our brothers and sisters who suffer from war. Let us think of Palestine, Israel, Ukraine. Let us also think of those who suffer from poverty, from hunger, from slavery. May the God who took on a human heart for himself infuse humanity into the hearts of men!

And please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and Happy Christmas to all of you! Arrivederci!