Pope Francis: the Church is a house of joy

2013-12-15 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) “The Christian message is called the ‘Gospel,’ that is, ‘the good news,’ an announcement of joy for all people; the Church is not a refuge for sad people, the Church is a house of joy.”

In his Angelus message on the Third Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded us that the day is also called “Gaudete Sunday,” “Rejoice Sunday.” The Liturgy, he said, is filled with calls to rejoice, to be joyful, in order to prepare us to celebrate the feast of Christmas with renewed exultation.

But, he said, the joy of the Gospel is not just any kind of joy. It is the joy that comes from knowing that you are welcomed and loved by God. Pope Francis pointed to Sunday’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah, which tells us that God is a God who comes to save us, and especially to lift up those who have lost heart. “However great our limits and our losses, we are not allowed to be weak and vacillating in the face of difficulties and our own weaknesses.” On the contrary, he said, we are called to be strong, “to strengthen the hands, to make firm the knees, to have courage and not be afraid, because our God always shows the greatness of His mercy.” With His help, we can start anew and overcome sadness and tears, we can “sing a new song.”

The Holy Father said that “Christian joy, like hope, is founded on the faithfulness of God, in the certainty that He always keeps His promises.” Isaiah, he said, calls on those who have lost their way, who are despairing, to trust in the faithfulness of the Lord, “because His salvation will not delay in breaking into their lives.” Those who trust in God, the Pope said, “experience a peacefulness in their hearts that nothing and no one can take away.” Our joy, he said, is Christ. For this reason, a Christian who becomes sad can be said, in a certain way, to be far from Christ. But precisely for that reason, we must not leave them alone, but rather we must “pray for them, and make them feel the warmth of the community.”

Pope Francis concluded his Angelus address with an appeal to the Virgin Mary to “help us hasten our steps to Bethlehem, in order to meet the Child that is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all.”

After leading the Angelus prayer, the Pope had special greetings for various groups of pilgrims, and first of all for the children of Rome. Following an old tradition, they had come to Saint Peter’s Square on Gaudete Sunday with the Baby Jesus from their Nativity sets, which are blessed by the Holy Father. “Dear children,” Pope Francis said, “when you pray before your Nativity scenes, remember me too, as I remember you. Thank you, and happy Christmas!”

He greeted too the pilgrims from Rome, from Italy, and from around the world, and in particular those from Spain and the United States. He concluded his greetings with a special wish for a happy Sunday.

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: