Vatican City, 16 December 2013 (VIS) – On the third Sunday of Advent, or "Gaudete Sunday" – joyful because it is soon before the Nativity, and therefore the Lord is near – the Holy Father appeared at the window of his study to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in a rainy St. Peter's Square, reaffirming that the Gospel is “a proclamation of joy for all people” and that “the Church "is not a haven for sad people. The Church is the house of joy! And those who are sad find true joy in her”.
“But the joy of the Gospel, however, is not just any joy”, continued the Pope. “It is motivated by the knowledge that we are wanted and loved by God … God is He Who comes to save us, and Who especially comes to the aid of a fearful heart. His coming among us strengthens us; it makes us stand firm, it gives us courage, it makes the desert and the steppe rejoice and bloom; our lives become arid without the water of God's Word and His Spirit of love. No matter how great our limitations and our disorientation, we are not permitted to be weak and uncertain in the face of difficulties and our own weaknesses. Instead, we are invited to strengthen our hands, to stand firm, to be courageous and not to fear, for our God always shows the greatness of His mercy. He gives us the strength to carry on. … He is a God Who loves us very much, Who loves us and is therefore among us, to help us to grow stronger and to move on. Courage, on we go!”
Pope Francis added that, thanks to His help, “we can always start afresh”, even when we are sure it is impossible. “Wrong!” he exclaimed. “You can start again, because he awaits you, He is close to you, He loves you, and He is merciful. … We are able to open our eyes again, overcome sadness and tears and sing a new song. And this true joy stands up to the test, even of suffering, because it is not a superficial joy; on the contrary, it permeates the very depths of the person who entrusts himself to God".
Christian joy, like hope, “has its foundation in the faithfulness of God, in the certainty that He always keeps His promises. … Those who have met Jesus along the way have experienced a serenity and joy that nothing and nobody can deprive them of. Our joy is Jesus Christ, His faithful and inexhaustible love! Therefore, when a Christian becomes sad it means that he or she has turned away from Jesus. But then we must not leave him alone, we must pray for him, and let him feel the warmth of the community".
The Virgin Mary, the Pope concluded, "helps us to hasten our steps toward Bethlehem to meet the Child Who is born for us, for the salvation and happiness of all humanity. … May she help us to live the joy of the gospel in the home, at work, in the parish and in any environment. An intimate joy, born of wonder and tenderness. The same joy of a mother who looks at her newborn baby, aware that she has received a gift from God, a miracle for which she can only give thanks".
Following the Angelus, the Pope greeted the children of Rome who brought their figurines of the newborn Baby Jesus to St. Peter's Square to be blessed by the Pontiff, as is customary on the third Sunday of Advent.
Shortly after, the Holy Father transferred to the Hall of the Blessings to greet the members of the Community of Villa Nazareth – the centre founded by Cardinal Domenico Tardini, to enable young people from families with insufficient resources to undertake university studies – where he participated in the traditional Nativity Mass.
The Pope greeted all those present and gave special thanks to the president of the Foundation, Cardinal Achille Silvestrini, who celebrated his 90th birthday on 23 October. “Thank you to the Cardinal who has done so much good, through his strong and fruitful thought, for the dignity of the human person … and for enabling everyone to find the talents the Lord has given them, in order that they may put them to use in life”, said the Holy Father. And thanks to all of you for your work. … And I ask you for your prayers, as I need them”.