As the Advent season begins, it is a good time to reflect on the Christian call to joyful expectancy, finding hope and consolation in waiting for Christ, Pope Francis said Saturday.
“We Christians are called to safeguard and spread the joy of waiting: we await God who loves us infinitely and at the same time we are awaited by Him. In this way, life becomes a great betrothal,” the pope said Dec. 1.
“Tonight,” he continued, “begins a time of consolation and hope, the time of Advent: a new liturgical year begins, which brings with it the novelty of our God, who is the ‘God of all consolation.’”
“I wish you to experience Advent thus, as a time of consoling novelty and joyous waiting,” he said.
Pope Francis spoke about the start of Advent during an audience with a group of about 6,500 people from the Italian dioceses of Ugento-Santa Maria di Leuca and Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi in the Paul VI Hall.
Francis thanked the travelers for coming, recalling that he had visited their diocese in April on a daytrip. “But God,” he pointed out, “will visit you where I cannot come: in your homes, in your lives. God visits us and waits to stay with us forever.”
In his speech, the pope referenced Servant of God Fr. Tonino Bello, who was the bishop of the Diocese of Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi from 1982-1993.
Don Tonino once reflected, he said, on the fact that life is full of fear: “Fear of neighbor... fear of the other... fear of violence... fear of not making it. Fear of not being accepted... fear that it is useless to work hard. Fear, much, that we cannot change the world... Fear of not finding a job.”
Francis pointed out that Don Tonino would respond to this gloomy scenario by saying that “Advent responds with ‘the Gospel of anti-fear.’”
“If fear makes you lie on the ground, the Lord invites you to get up; if negativity pushes you to look down, Jesus invites us to turn our gaze to heaven, from where He will come. Because we are not children of fear, but children of God,” the pope said.
“Then we welcome the invitation of the Gospel, the invitation so often repeated by Don Tonino to stand up, to get up,” he continued. “From where? From the sofas of life: from the comfort that makes you lazy, from the mundanity that makes you sick inside, from the self-pity that darkens.”
“Stand up, let us look up to the sky,” he instructed. “We would also advise of the need to open our hands to our neighbor. And the consolation that we can give will heal our fears.”