‘May these be, for you and your family, days where you can enjoy the beauty of being together, knowing and feeling Jesus is in our midst.’
Pope Francis gave this advice during his address before the recitation of the Angelus prayer to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square Monday afternoon, on the Feast of St. Stephen.
Noting that the joy of Christmas fills our hearts also today and the Liturgy has us celebrate the martyrdom of the first martyr Saint Stephen, Francis stressed that after celebrating the birth of Jesus on earth, today we celebrate the birth of Saint Stephen in heaven. Even if at first glance, it might not seem there is a link between the two events, the Pope said, there is, and it is very strong.
Yesterday, in the liturgy of Christmas, we heard proclaimed that “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). St Stephen, the Pope reminded, disturbed the leaders of his people because he firmly believed and professed the new presence of God among men, which later would lead to his death.
“Jesus’ message is uncomfortable and makes us uncomfortable, because it challenges worldly religious power and provokes consciences,” the Pope said.
“After His coming, it is necessary to convert, to change mentality, to give up thinking as before.” Until his death, Francis reminded, Stephen remained anchored to the message of Jesus.
The Risen Christ is the Lord, and He is the only mediator between God and men, Francis stressed, noting this is not only in the hour of our death, but also in every moment of life.
“Without Him, we can do nothing,” the Pope said. “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, the Pope said, 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.”
Before preparing the midday prayer, the Pope invited everyone to pray to Mary, Mother of God and Queen of Martyrs, that she may 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.
Greeting those present, Francis reminded the faithful that this atmosphere of Christian joy springs from the Christmas of Jesus.
“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.”
In these weeks, he said, he has 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!”
Pope Francis concluded, wishing those present a happy feast day, a good lunch, and reminding them to pray for him.
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