Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ address before and after the recitation of the Angelus prayer to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 26, 2017, on the Feast of St. Stephen:
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BEFORE THE ANGELUS
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
After celebrating the birth of Jesus on earth, today we celebrate the birth of Saint Stephen, the first martyr, in heaven. Even if at first glance, it might seem that there is no link between the two events, there is, and it is very strong.
Yesterday, in the liturgy of Christmas, we heard proclaim: “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Saint Stephen put the leaders of his people in crisis, because, “filled with faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6: 5), he firmly believed and professed the new presence of God among men; he knew that the true temple of God is now Jesus, the Eternal Word Who came to dwell among us, Who was made like us, except in sin. But Stephen is accused of preaching the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The accusation against him is to say that “Jesus, this Nazorean, will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us” (Acts 6:14).
In fact, Jesus’ message is uncomfortable and makes us uncomfortable, because it challenges worldly religious power and provokes consciences. After His coming, it is necessary to convert, to change mentality, to give up thinking as before. Stephen remained anchored to the message of Jesus until His death. His last prayers: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:59-60) are the faithful echo of those pronounced by Jesus on the Cross: “Father, in Your hands, I deliver my spirit “(Lk 23:46) and “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing “(v. 34). Those words of Stephen were possible only because the Son of God came to earth and died and rose for us; before these events, were humanly unthinkable expressions.
Stephen begs Jesus to welcome His spirit. Indeed, the Risen Christ is the Lord, and He is the only mediator between God and men, not only in the hour of our death, but also in every moment of life: without Him, we can do nothing (cf. Jn 15, 5). Therefore, we too, before the Child Jesus in the crib, can pray to Him like this: “Lord Jesus, we entrust our spirit to you, welcome Him,” so that our existence may indeed be a good life in accordance with the Gospel.
Jesus is our mediator and reconciles us not only with the Father, but also among ourselves. He is the source of love, which opens us to communion with our brothers, removing all conflict and resentment. Let us ask Jesus, born for us, to help us to take on this dual attitude of trust in the Father and love of neighbor; it is an attitude that transforms life and makes it more beautiful and fruitful.
To Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and Queen of the martyrs, we lift up our prayer with confidence, that she may help us accept Jesus as Lord of our life and become His courageous witnesses ready to pay, through our person, the price of fidelity to the Gospel.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]
AFTER THE ANGELUS:
Dear brothers and sisters,
In the atmosphere of Christian joy that springs from the Christmas of Jesus, I greet you and thank you for your presence.
To all of you, who have come from Italy and from different countries, I renew my wish for peace and serenity: may these be, for you and your family, days where you can enjoy the beauty of being together, knowing and feeling Jesus is in the midst of us.
A special greeting to the faithful of the national Ukrainian Pilgrimage: I bless all of you and your country.
In these weeks, I have received many Christmas greetings. Since I have not been able to respond to each one, I express my heartfelt thanks to everyone today, especially for the gift of prayer. Thank you from the heart! May the Lord reward you with His generosity!
Happy feast day! Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]