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Friday, January 2, 2015

Angelus: prayer lets peace germinate

Vatican City, 2 January 2015 (VIS) – Following the celebration of Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God, and on the 48th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square. Before the Marian prayer, the Pontiff gave a short address.

“On this first day of the year, in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, the Church invites us to fix our gaze of faith and of love on the Mother of Jesus. … It is impossible to separate contemplation of Jesus, the Word of life Who is made visible and tangible, from contemplation of Mary, who has given Him her love and her human flesh. At the beginning of a new year, it is good to remember the day of our Baptism: we rediscover the gift received in that Sacrament which has regenerated us to new life, the divine life. And this is through the Mother Church, which has as its model the Mother Mary. Thanks to our Baptism we have been introduced to communion with God and are no longer at the mercy of evil and sin, but instead receive the love, tenderness, and mercy of the heavenly Father”.
“This closeness of God to our existence gives us true peace, the divine gift we especially wish to implore today, World Day of Peace. … Peace is always possible and our prayer is at the root of peace. Prayer enables peace to germinate. Today, World Day of Peace, 'Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters': this is the message of this Day. Because wars make slaves of us, always. It is a message that affects all of us. We are all required to fight against every form of slavery and to build fraternity. All of us – each person according to his or her own responsibility”.
Pope Francis urged those present to pray to Mary, Mother of God and Our Mother, to present her our good intentions and to ask her to extend the mantle of her maternal protection over us, every day of the new year. Following the Marian prayer, the Pope greeted the faithful in the square and wished them a happy new year. Shortly after the tolling of the “Maria Dolens” bell in Trentino, made in honour of the fallen in all the wars and blessed by Pope Paul VI in 1965, was heard by live connection. “May there never again be wars, but always a desire for and commitment to peace and brotherhood among peoples”, he concluded.

Jesus cannot be understood without His mother

Vatican City, 2 January 2015 (VIS) – This Thursday, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and the Octave of Christmas, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the Vatican Basilica. Today is also the 48th World Day of Peace, which takes as its theme “Slaves no more, but brothers and sisters”.

The full text of the homily pronounced by the Pope is given below:

“Today we are reminded of the words of blessing which Elizabeth spoke to the Virgin Mary: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?'. This blessing is in continuity with the priestly blessing which God had given to Moses to be passed on to Aaron and to all the people: 'The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace'. In celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Most Holy Mother of God, the Church reminds us that Mary, more than anyone else, received this blessing. In her the blessing finds fulfilment, for no other creature has ever seen God’s face shine upon it as did Mary. She gave a human face to the eternal Word, so that all of us can contemplate Him.

“In addition to contemplating God’s face, we can also praise him and glorify Him, like the shepherds who came away from Bethlehem with a song of thanksgiving after seeing the Child and His young mother. The two were together, just as they were together at Calvary, because Christ and His mother are inseparable: there is a very close relationship between them, as there is between every child and his or her mother. The flesh of Christ – which, as Tertullian says, is the hinge of our salvation – was knit together in the womb of Mary. This inseparability is also clear from the fact that Mary, chosen beforehand to be the Mother of the Redeemer, shared intimately in His entire mission, remaining at her Son’s side to the end on Calvary.

“Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she received from Him the knowledge of the heart, the knowledge of faith, nourished by her experience as a mother and by her close relationship with her Son. The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans; she is the believer capable of perceiving in the gift of her Son the coming of that 'fullness of time' in which God, by choosing the humble path of human existence, entered personally into the history of salvation. That is why Jesus cannot be understood without His Mother.

“Likewise inseparable are Christ and the Church; the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church. To separate Jesus from the Church would introduce an 'absurd dichotomy', as Blessed Paul VI wrote. It is not possible 'to love Christ but without the Church, to listen to Christ but not the Church, to belong to Christ but outside the Church'. For the Church is herself God’s great family, which brings Christ to us. Our faith is not an abstract doctrine or philosophy, but a vital and full relationship with a person: Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God Who became man, was put to death, rose from the dead to save us, and is now living in our midst. Where can we encounter Him? We encounter Him in the Church. It is the Church which says today: 'Behold the Lamb of God'; it is the Church which proclaims Him; it is in the Church that Jesus continues to accomplish His acts of grace which are the sacraments.

“This, the Church’s activity and mission, is an expression of her motherhood. For she is like a mother who tenderly holds Jesus and gives Him to everyone with joy and generosity. No manifestation of Christ, even the most mystical, can ever be detached from the flesh and blood of the Church, from the historical concreteness of the Body of Christ. Without the Church, Jesus Christ ends up as an idea, a moral teaching, a feeling. Without the Church, our relationship with Christ would be at the mercy of our imagination, our interpretations, our moods.

“Dear brothers and sisters! Jesus Christ is the blessing for every man and woman, and for all of humanity. The Church, in giving us Jesus, offers us the fullness of the Lord’s blessing. This is precisely the mission of the people of God: to spread to all peoples God’s blessing made flesh in Jesus Christ. And Mary, the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church’s motherhood and constantly sustains her maternal mission to all mankind. Mary’s tactful maternal witness has accompanied the Church from the beginning. She, the Mother of God, is also the Mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women, and of every people.

“May this gentle and loving Mother obtain for us the Lord’s blessing upon the entire human family. On this, the World Day of Peace, we especially implore her intercession that the Lord may grant peace in our day; peace in hearts, peace in families, peace among the nations. The message for the Day of Peace this year is 'Slaves no more, but Brothers and Sisters'. All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement. From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces. May He guide and sustain us, Who, in order to make us all brothers and sisters, became our servant”.

New Year's Eve Vespers: “Give thanks and ask forgiveness”

Vatican City, 1 January 2015 (VIS) – “The meaning of time, temporality, is the atmosphere of the Epiphany of God, or rather the manifestation of God and His concrete love. Indeed, as St. Peter Faber said, time is God's messenger”, affirmed the Holy Father during the celebration of Vespers on the Solemnity of Mary Most Holy Mother of God, on the last day of the year. He continued, “Today's liturgy recalls the phrase of the apostle John: 'Children, it is the last hour', and that of St. Paul, who speaks of the 'fullness of time'. Therefore, today shows us how time was, so to speak, 'touched' by Christ, the Son of God and Mary, and received from Him new and surprising meanings: it became 'salvific time', or rather the definitive time of salvation and grace. And all this urges us to think of the end of the path of life, of the end of our journey”.

The Pope also remarked that with the Te Deum, the traditional hymn of thanksgiving at the year end, and the Eucharistic blessing, we praise the Lord and at the same time ask for forgiveness. “The attitude of giving thanks disposes us to humility, to recognising and receiving the Lord's gifts”, and as the apostle Paul explains in the reading, the fundamental reason for giving thanks to God is the fact that “He has made us all His children, He has adopted us as His children. This unmerited gift, fills us with gratitude and wonder. Some might say, 'But are we not already all His children, by the very fact of being men?'. We certainly are, since God is the Father of every person who comes into the world. But we must not forget that we were estranged from Him because of original sin. … For this reason, God sent His Son to redeem us at the price of His blood. And if there was a ransom, it is because there was slavery. We were His children, but we became slaves, following the voice of the evil one. None other than Jesus redeems us from that effective slavery; He Who took on our flesh from the Virgin Mary and died on the cross to free us from the slavery of sin and to restore to us our lost filial status”.

Francis emphasised that the liturgy also reminds us that “in the beginning, before time, there was the Word … and the Word was made man”, and mentioned that “the very gift for which we give thanks is also a reason for an examination of conscience, for reviewing our personal and communal life, for asking ourselves: how do we live? Do we live as sons or as slaves? Do we live as persons baptised in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, redeemed and free? Or do we live according to a worldly, corrupt logic, doing what the devil makes us believe is in our interest?” He added, “we are afraid of freedom and paradoxically we more or less unconsciously prefer the slavery that prevents us from fully and truly living in the present, as it empties it of the past and closes it to the future, to eternity. Slavery makes us believe that we cannot dream, fly, hope”.

“Nostalgia for slavery resides in our heart, as it is seemingly more reassuring than freedom, which is far riskier. How we like to be rapt by so many fireworks, which appear beautiful but in reality last just a few instants. This is the reign, the fascination of the moment. For us, as Christians, the quality of our work, our life, our presence in cities, our service to the common good, our participation in public and ecclesial institutions, depends on this examination of conscience”.

The Pope went on to speak about the significance of living in Rome, “which is a great gift, as it means dwelling in the eternal city; for a Christian, in particular, it means being part of the Church founded on the witness and martyrdom of the holy apostles Peter and Paul. Therefore, we also thank the Lord for this”. However, he added, there are also “grave issues of corruption, which have emerged recently, and which require a serious and conscious conversion of hearts for a spiritual and moral rebirth, as well as renewed commitment to constructing a more just and caring city, where the poor, the weak and the marginalised are the focus of our concerns and our daily actions. A great and daily attitude of Christian freedom is necessary to have the courage to proclaim, in our city, that we must defend the poor, and not defend ourselves from the poor; that we must serve the weak and not make use of them”.

“When in a city the poor and the weak are cared for, assisted and helped to promote themselves in society, they are shown to be the treasure of the Church and an asset to society. Instead, when a society ignores the poor, persecutes them and criminalises them, compelling them to turn to organised crime, that society is impoverished to the point of misery, loses its freedom and favours the 'garlic and onions' of slavery, the slavery of its selfishness, the slavery of cowardliness, and that society ceases to be Christian. Dear brothers and sisters”, he concluded, “to bring the year to an end is to reaffirm that a 'last hour' exists, and that the 'fullness of time' exists. In concluding the year, in giving thanks and asking for forgiveness, it will do us good to ask for the grace to be able to walk in freedom, to be able to repair the damage done and to be able to defend ourselves from the nostalgia of slavery, not to idealise slavery”. He encouraged those present to pray to the Virgin Mary, that she might help us receive the Saviour with an open heart, to truly be and live freely as children of God”.

Other Pontifical Acts

Vatican City, 2 January 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed Fr. Marcelino Antonio Maralit as bishop of Boac (area 959, population 238,850, Catholics 222,130, priests 30, religious 38), Philippines. The bishop-elect was born in Manila, Philippines in 1969 and was ordained a priest in 1995. He holds a licentiate from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain and a licentiate in church history from the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. He has served in a number of pastoral roles, including parish vicar of the “Immaculate Conception” parish in Batangas; professor at the St. Francis de Sales major seminary of Lipa City; deputy director and subsequently director of the diocesan commission for vocations; vice-rector, professor, dean of studies and subsequently rector of the St. Francis theological seminary. He is currently parish priest of the “Invencion de la Santa Cruz” parish in Alitatag, Batangas and member of the presbyteral council of the archdiocese of Lipa.
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