POPE FRANCIS ON THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
Friday, 25 March 2022
In the Gospel reading for today’s Solemnity, the angel Gabriel speaks three times in addressing the Virgin Mary.
The first is when he greets her and says, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The reason to rejoice, the reason for joy, is revealed in those few words: the Lord is with you. Dear brother, dear sister, today you can hear those words addressed to you. You can make them your own each time you approach God’s forgiveness, for there the Lord tells you, “I am with you”. All too often, we think that Confession is about going to God with dejected looks. Yet it is not so much that we go to the Lord, but that he comes to us, to fill us with his grace, to fill us with his joy. Our confession gives the Father the joy of raising us up once more. It is not so much about our sins as about his forgiveness. Our sins are present but the forgiveness of God is always at the heart of our confession. Think about it: if our sins were at the heart of the sacrament, almost everything would depend on us, on our repentance, our efforts, our resolves. Far from it. The sacrament is about God, who liberates us and puts us back on our feet.
Let us recognize once more the primacy of grace and ask for the gift to realize that Reconciliation is not primarily our drawing near to God, but his embrace that enfolds, astonishes and overwhelms us. The Lord enters our home, as he did that of Mary in Nazareth, and brings us unexpected amazement and joy – the joy of forgiveness. Let us first look at things from God’s perspective: then we will rediscover our love for Confession. We need this, for every interior rebirth, every spiritual renewal, starts there, from God’s forgiveness. May we not neglect Reconciliation, but rediscover it as the sacrament of joy. Yes, the sacrament of joy, for our shame for our sins becomes the occasion for an experience of the warm embrace of the Father, the gentle strength of Jesus who heals us, and the “maternal tenderness” of the Holy Spirit. That is the heart of Confession.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us go forth and receive forgiveness. And you, dear brother priests who are ministers of God’s forgiveness, offer to those who approach you the joy of this proclamation: Rejoice, the Lord is with you. Please set aside rigidity, obstacles and harshness; may you be doors wide open to mercy! Especially in Confession, we are called to act in the person of the Good Shepherd who takes his sheep into his arms and cradles them. We are called to be channels of grace that pour forth the living water of the Father’s mercy on hearts grown arid. If a priest does not approach Confession with this attitude, it would be better for him to refrain from celebrating the sacrament.
A second time the angel speaks to Mary. She was troubled by his greeting, and so he tells her, “Do not be afraid” (v. 30). The first time he says, “The Lord is with you”. Now, the second time, he says “Do not be afraid”. In the Scriptures, whenever God appears to those who receive him, he loves to utter those words: Do not be afraid! He says them to Abraham (cf. Gen 15:1), repeats them to Isaac (cf. Gen 26:24), to Jacob (cf. Gen 46:3) and so on, up to Joseph (cf. Mt 1:20) and Mary. Do not be afraid! In this way, he sends us a clear and comforting message: once our lives are open to God, fear can no longer hold us in thrall. For fear can truly hold us in thrall. You, dear sister, dear brother, if your sins frighten you, if your past worries you, if your wounds do not heal, if your constant failings dishearten you and you seem to have lost hope, please, do not be afraid. God knows your weaknesses and is greater than your mistakes. God is greater than our sins. He asks of you only one thing: that you not hold your frailties and sufferings inside. Bring them to him, lay them before him and, from being reasons for despair, they will become opportunities for resurrection. Do not be afraid! The Lords asks us for our sins. This brings to mind the story of a monk in the desert. He had given everything to God and lived a life of fasting, penance and prayer. The Lord asked for more. “Lord, I gave you everything”, said the monk, “what more is there?” The Lord replied, “Give me yours sins”. Do not be afraid!
The Blessed Virgin Mary accompanies us: she cast her own anxiety upon God. The angel’s proclamation gave her good reason to be afraid. He proposed to her something unimaginable and beyond her abilities, something that she could not handle alone: there would be too many difficulties, problems with the Mosaic law, with Joseph, with the citizens of her town and with her people. Yet Mary did not object. Those words – do not be afraid – were sufficient for her; God’s reassurance was enough for her. She clung to him, as we want to do tonight. Yet so often we do the exact opposite. We start from our own certainties and, when we lose them, we turn to God. Our Lady, on the other hand, teaches us to start from God, trusting that in this way everything else will be given to us (cf. Mt 6:33). She invites us to go to the source, to the Lord, who is the ultimate remedy against fear and emptiness in life. There is a lovely phrase written above a confessional here in the Vatican that reminds us of this. It addresses God with these words, “To turn away from you is to fall, to turn back to you is to rise, to abide in you is to have life” (cf. SAINT AUGUSTINE, Soliloquies I, 3).
In these days, news reports and scenes of death continue to enter our homes, even as bombs are destroying the homes of many of our defenceless Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The vicious war that has overtaken so many people, and caused suffering to all, has made each of us fearful and anxious. We sense our helplessness and our inadequacy. We need to be told, “Do not be afraid”. Yet human reassurance is not enough. We need the closeness of God and the certainty of his forgiveness, which alone eliminates evil, disarms resentment and restores peace to our hearts. Let us return to God and to his forgiveness.
A third time the angel speaks to Mary and says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:35). Again, the first time he says, “The Lord is with you”. The second time his words are, “Do not be afraid”. Now, he says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”. That is how God intervenes in history: by giving his very Spirit. For in the things that matter, our own strength is not enough. By ourselves, we cannot succeed in resolving the contradictions of history or even those of our own hearts. We need the wisdom and gentle power of God that is the Holy Spirit. We need the Spirit of love who dispels hatred, soothes bitterness, extinguishes greed and rouses us from indifference. The Spirit gives us concord because he is concord. We need God’s love, for our love is fragile and insufficient. We ask the Lord for many things, but how often we forget to ask him for what is most important and what he desires most to give us: the Holy Spirit, the power to love. Indeed, without love, what can we offer to the world? It has been said that a Christian without love is like a needle that does not sew: it stings, it wounds, and if it fails to sew, weave or patch, then it is useless. I would dare to say that this person is not a Christian. This is why we need to find in God’s forgiveness the power of love: the same Spirit who descended upon Mary.
If we want the world to change, then first our hearts must change. For this to happen, let us allow Our Lady to take us by the hand. Let us gaze upon her Immaculate Heart in which God dwelt, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast”. Mary is “full of grace” (v. 28), and thus free from sin. In her, there is no trace of evil and hence, with her, God was able to begin a new story of salvation and peace. There, in her, history took a turn. God changed history by knocking at the door of Mary’s heart.
Today, renewed by forgiveness, may we too knock at the door of her immaculate heart. In union with the Bishops and faithful of the world, I desire in a solemn way to bring all that we are presently experiencing to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I wish to renew to her the consecration of the Church and the whole of humanity, and to consecrate to her in a particular way the Ukrainian people and the Russian people who, with filial affection, venerate her as a Mother. This is no magic formula but a spiritual act. It is an act of complete trust on the part of children who, amid the tribulation of this cruel and senseless war that threatens our world, turn to their Mother. It is like what young children do when they are scared; they turn to their mother for protection. We turn to our Mother, reposing all our fears and pain in her heart and abandoning ourselves to her. It means placing in that pure and undefiled heart, where God is mirrored, the inestimable goods of fraternity and peace, all that we have and are, so that she, the Mother whom the Lord has given us, may protect us and watch over us.
Mary then uttered the most beautiful words that the angel could bring back to God: “Let it be to me according to your word” (v. 38). Hers was no passive or resigned acceptance, but a lively desire to obey God, who has “plans for welfare and not for evil” (Jer 29:11). Hers was the most intimate sharing in God’s plan of peace for the world. We consecrate ourselves to Mary in order to enter into this plan, to place ourselves fully at the disposal of God’s plans. After having uttered her “Fiat”, the Mother of God set out on a long journey to the hill country, to visit a relative who was with child (cf. Lk 1:39). She went with haste. I like to think of this image of Our Lady going with haste. She comes with haste to help and take care of us. May she now take our own journey into her hands: may she guide our steps through the steep and arduous paths of fraternity and dialogue, along the way of peace.
MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE
DOMUS SANCTAE MARTHAE
Celebrate the ‘yes’
Monday, 4 April 2016
(by L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n. 14, 8 April 2016)
“Yes”. For a Christian there is no other response to God’s call. Above all we must never turn away, pretending not to understand. On Monday, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the Pope invited a “celebration of the ‘yes’” during Mass at Santa Marta.
Concelebrating with Francis were priests who, commemorating the 50th anniversary of their ordination, renewed their vows with a definitive “yes”. Vincentian nuns who work at Santa Marta also renewed their vows. “It is all a history that ends and begins in this solemnity that we are celebrating today: the history of mankind, when he leaves paradise”, the Pope noted at the beginning of the homily. After man sins, the Lord commands him to walk and fill the earth: “Be fruitful and go forth”. However, “the Lord was paying attention to what man was doing”. Thus, “several times when man made mistakes, God punished man: let us think of Babel or of the flood”.
In this way, God was always “watching what man was doing: at a certain point, this God who was watching and protecting man, decided to create a people and he called our father Abraham: ‘Go forth from your land, from your home’”. And Abraham “obeyed, he said ‘yes’” to the Lord, “and he left his land without knowing where he was to go”. This is “the people’s first ‘yes’ to God”. It is here, that “with Abraham, God — who watched his people — began to ‘walk with’. He walked with Abraham: ‘Walk before me’, God said to him”.
The Pope explained that God “then did the same with Moses, to whom at 80 years, God said: ‘Do this’. And Moses at 80 — he was elderly — said ‘yes!’. And he went to set the people free”.
Then, the Pope said, God “did the same with the prophets”: let us consider Isaiah, for example, when the Lord told him to go and tell things to the people”, Isaiah responded that he was a man of “unclean lips”. But the Lord “purified Isaiah’s lips and Isaiah said ‘yes!’”.
The same thing also happened with Jeremiah, the Pope recalled. The prophet’s first response was: “Lord, I don’t know how to speak, I am a boy!”. But God commanded him to go and he responded “yes!”. There are really so many of those “who said ‘yes’”. There is truly a “humanity of elderly men and women who said ‘yes’ to the Lord’s hope”. Francis also added Simeon and Hannah to the homily.
“Today the Gospel tells us”, the Pope explained, that “at the end of this chain of ‘yeses’ is the beginning of another ‘yes’ which is starting to grow: the ‘yes’ of Mary”. It is with “this ‘yes’ that God”, the Pontiff affirmed, “not only watches how man is doing, He not only walks with his people, but becomes one of us and takes on our flesh”. In fact “Mary’s ‘yes’ opens the door to the ‘yes’ of Jesus: ‘I come to do your will’”. And it is “this ‘yes’ that goes with Jesus throughout his life, up to the Cross: ‘Father, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done’”. It is “in Jesus Christ that, as Paul says to the Corinthians, there is this ‘yes’ of God: He is the ‘yes’”.
“It is a beautiful day”, the Pope remarked, “to thank the Lord for teaching us this way of ‘yes’, but also for caring about our life”. Indeed, “some of us”, he said, as he turned toward the priests attending the Mass, “are celebrating the 50th anniversary of priesthood: a beautiful day to think about the ‘yes’ of your life”. But “all of us, every day, must say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and think about whether we always say the ‘yes’ or if we often hide ourselves, lowering our head, like Adam and Eve, to avoid saying ‘no’”, pretending not to understand “what God is asking”.
“Today is the celebration of the ‘yes’, Francis said. Indeed, “in Mary’s ‘yes’ there is the ‘yes’ of all of salvation history and there begins the ultimate ‘yes’ of man and of God: there God re-creates, as at the beginning, with a ‘yes’, God made the earth and man, that beautiful creation: with this ‘yes’ I come to do your will and more wonderfully he re-creates the world, he re-creates us all”. It is “God’s ‘yes’ that sanctifies us, that lets us go forth in Jesus Christ”. This is why today is the right day “to thank the Lord and to ask ourselves: am I a man or woman of ‘yes’ or a man or woman of ‘no’? Or am I a man or woman who looks away, so as not to respond?”.
The Pope then expressed hope “that the Lord grant us the grace to take this path of men and women who knew how to say ‘yes’”. After sharing a thought with the priests, Francis turned to the community of Sisters of Santa Marta: “At this time, the Sisters who are in this Casa will silently renew their vows. They do so every year because St Vincent was intelligent and knew that the mission he entrusted to them is very difficult, and for this reason he wanted them to renew their vows each year. In silence, let us accompany their renewal”.
Basilica of Our Lady of Loreto
March 25, 2019
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
And thank you for your warm welcome! Thank you.
The words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary: “Greetings, o favoured one” (Lk 1: 28), resonate in a unique way in this Shrine, a privileged place for contemplating the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God. Indeed, here are conserved the walls that, according to tradition, come from Nazareth, where the Holy Virgin pronounced her “yes”, becoming the mother of Jesus. Since the place named the “home of Mary” became a venerated and beloved presence on this hill, the Mother of God has never ceased to obtain spiritual benefits in those who, with faith and devotion, come here to pause in prayer. Among these people, today I include myself, and I thank God Who granted this to me precisely on the day of the Annunciation.
Many people come to this oasis of silence and piety, from Italy and from all over the world, to draw strength and hope. I am thinking in particular of young people, families and the sick.
The Holy House is the home of the young, because here the Virgin Mary, the young woman full of grace, continues to speak to the new generations, accompanying each person in the search for his or her own vocation. This is why I wanted to sign here the Apostolic Exhortation, fruit of the Synod dedicated to young people. It is titled “Christus vivit – Christ lives”. In the event of the Annunciation the dynamic of the vocation appears, expressed in the three moments that marked the Synod: 1) listening to the Word – plan of God; 2) discernment; and 3) decision.
The first moment, that of listening, is manifested by those words of the Angel: “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favour with God … you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus” (vv. 30-31). It is always God Who takes the initiative to call to His following. It is God Who takes the initiative: He always precedes us, He precedes, He sets the way in our life. The call to faith and to a consistent path of Christian life or of special consecrated is God’s discreet but powerful irruption in the life of a young person, to offer His love to him as a gift. It is necessary to be ready and willing to listen to and welcome the voice of God, which is not recognized in noise and agitation. His plan for our personal and social life is not perceived by staying on the surface, but by descending to a deeper level, where moral and spiritual forces act. It is there that Mary invites the young to descend and to be in tune with God’s action.
The second moment typical of every vocation is discernment, expressed in Mary’s words: “How will this be?” (v. 34). Mary does not doubt: her question is not a lack of faith, rather it expresses precisely her desire to discover the “surprises” of God. In her there is attention to grasping all the demands of God’s plan for her life, to know it in all its facets, to make her own collaboration more responsible and more complete. It is the attitude proper to the disciple: every human collaboration in God’s gratuitous initiative must be inspired by a deepening of one’s own capacities and attitudes, linked with the awareness that it is always God Who gives, Who acts; in this way even the poverty and smallness of those whom the Lord calls to follow Him on the way of the Gospel is transformed into the richness of the manifestation of the Lord and in the strength of the Almighty.
Decision is the third step that characterizes every Christian vocation, and is made explicit in Mary’s answer to the angel: “Let it be to me according to Your word” (v. 38). Her “yes” to God’s plan of salvation, put into effect by means of the Incarnation, is the consignment to Him of all her life. It is the “yes” of full trust and total availability to God’s will. Mary is the model of every vocation and the inspirer of every vocational pastoral care: the young who are seeking or questioning themselves about their future may find in Mary she who helps them to discern God’s plan for them and the strength to adhere to it.
I think of Loreto as a privileged place where the young can come in search of their own vocation, in the school of Mary! A spiritual pole in the service of vocational pastoral ministry. I hope, therefore, that the “John Paul II” Centre may be re-launched in the service of the Church in Italy and at international level, consistent with the indications that emerged from the Synod. A place where the young and their educators can feel they are welcomed, accompanied and helped to discern. For this, I also warmly ask the Capuchin Friars for an additional service: the service of extending the opening hours of the Basilica and of the Holy House during the late evening and also the beginning of the night, when there are groups of young people who come to pray and to discern their vocation. The Shrine of the Holy House of Loreto, also as a result of its geographical location in the centre of the peninsula, lends itself to becoming, for the Church that is in Italy, a place to propose a continuation of the world meetings of young people and of the family. Indeed, it is necessary for the enthusiasm of the preparation and celebration of these events to correspond to their pastoral implementation, which gives flesh to the richness of the contact, through proposals for deepening, prayer and sharing.
The House of Mary is also the house of the family. In the delicate situation of today’s world, the family based on the marriage between a man and a woman assumes an essential importance and mission. It is necessary to rediscover the plan drawn up by God for the family, to reiterate its greatness and irreplaceability in the service of life and of society. In the house of Nazareth, Mary lived the multiplicity of family relations as daughter, betrothed, wife and mother. For this reason every family, in its different members, finds here acceptance and inspiration to live its own identity.
The domestic experience of the Holy Virgin indicates that family and young people cannot be two parallel sectors of the pastoral care of our communities, but they must walk closely together, because very often young people are what a family has given them in period of their growth. This perspective recomposes in a unitary fashion a vocational ministry attentive to expressing the face of Jesus in its many aspects, as priest, spouse and pastor.
The House of Mary is the house of the sick. Here those who suffer in the body and in the spirit may find welcome, and the Mother brings to all the Lord’s mercy from generation to generation. Sickness wounds the family, and the sick must be accepted within the family. Please, do not fall to that throwaway culture that is proposed by the many ideological colonisations that attack us today. The house and the family are the first cure for the sick, in loving them, supporting them, encouraging them and taking care of them. This is why the Shrine of the Holy House is the symbol of every welcoming home and shrine of the sick. From here I send to all of these, everywhere in the world, an affectionate thought and I say to them: you are at the centre of Christ’s work, because you share and carry behind Him the cross of every day in the most concrete way. Your suffering can become a decisive collaboration for the advent of the Kingdom of God.
Dear brothers and sisters! To you and to those who are connected to this Shrine, God, through Mary, entrusts a mission in this time of ours: to bring the Gospel of peace and life to our contemporaries who are often distracted, occupied with worldly interests or immersed in a climate of spiritual aridity. There is a need for simple and wise, humble and courageous, poor and generous people. In short, people who, following the school of Mary, welcome without reserve the Gospel in their own life. In this way, through the holiness of the people of God, from this place testimonies of holiness in every state of life will continue to spread through Italy, Europe and the world, to renew the Church and inspire society with the leaven of the Kingdom of God.
May the Holy Virgin help all, especially the young, to follow the path of peace and brotherhood, based on acceptance and forgiveness, on respect for the other and on the love that is the gift of self. May our Mother, bright star of joy and serenity, give to families, shrines of love, the blessing and the joy of life. May Mary, source of every consolation, bring help and comfort to those who are in difficulty. With these intentions, now let us join together in the Angelus prayer.
“FOR GOD, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE.”
Like Mary, we can also be at a loss. “How will this come about” in times so full of speculation? There is speculation about life, about work, about the family. There is speculation about the poor and about migrants; there is speculation about young people and about their future. All seems to be reduced to numbers, forgetting, on the other hand, that the daily life of so many families is tinged with precariousness and insecurity. While grief knocks at many doors, while so many young people grow dissatisfied due to the lack of real opportunities, speculation abounds everywhere.
- Evoke the memory. The first thing the Angel does is to evoke the memory, thus opening Mary’s present to the whole history of Salvation. He evokes the promise made to David as fruit of the Covenant with Jacob. Mary is daughter of the Covenant. We also are invited today to remember, to look at our past so as not to forget from where we came, so as not to forget our ancestors, our grandparents and all that they went through to come to where we are today. This land and its people have known the grief of two world wars and sometimes have seen their merited fame for industry and civilization polluted by unruly ambitions. The memory helps us not to remain prisoners of discourses that sow fractures and divisions as the only way to resolve conflicts. To evoke the memory is the best antidote to our disposition in face of the magical solutions of division and estrangement.
- Belonging to the People of God. Memory enables Mary to appropriate her belonging to the People of God. It does us good to remember that we are members of the People of God! Milanese, yes, Ambrosians, certainly, but part of the great People of God – a people made up of a thousand faces, histories, provenances, a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic people. This is one of our riches. It is a people called to welcome differences, to integrate them with respect and creativity and to celebrate the novelty that comes from others; it is a people that is not afraid to embrace the confines, the frontiers; it is a people that is not afraid to give hospitality to one in need because it knows that its Lord is present there.
- The possibility of the impossible.
- “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37): thus ends the Angel’s answer to Mary. When we believe that everything depends on our capacities, on our strengths, on our myopic horizons, when, instead, we are ready to allow ourselves to be helped, to let ourselves be counseled, when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become possible. These lands know this well that, in the course of their history, have generated so many charisms, so many missionaries, so much richness for the life of the Church! The many times that, overcoming sterile and divisive pessimism, they opened themselves to God’s initiative and became signs of how fruitful a land can be that is not closed in its own ideas, in its limitations and in its capacities and opens to others.
HOMILY SOURCE: https://zenit.org/articles/god-makes-impossible-possible-popes-homily-in-milan/
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