The Gospel is more than a nice story – it is the concrete revelation of God’s plan for the world and calls people to holiness, Pope Francis said Sunday.
The first chapter of the Gospel of John “tells us that the Gospel of Christ is not a fairy tale, a myth, an edifying story, no, the Gospel of Christ is the full revelation of the God’s plan, God’s plan for man and the world,” the pope said Jan. 5, in his address before the Angelus.
In Italy, the feast of Epiphany is not transferred to Sunday, as it is in the United States, so Pope Francis’ reflection was on the first chapter of St. John, which begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
This message of this Gospel is both “simple and grandiose,” he said, adding that it prompts Catholics to ask themselves: “what concrete project has the Lord placed in me, still realizing his birth among us?”
Speaking from a window of the apostolic palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said St. Paul answers the question in Ephesians 1:4. “[God] chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love...”
“Here is the meaning of Christmas. If the Lord continues to come among us, if he continues to give us the gift of his Word, it is because each of us can respond to this call: to become saints in love,” the pope stated.
Holiness, he said, means being in communion with God. And whoever accepts holiness as a gift of God’s grace “cannot fail to translate it into concrete action in everyday life, in the encounter with others.”
Thus, a person’s charity and mercy toward their neighbor becomes a reflection of God’s love and helps to purify one’s heart, he explained.
According to Francis, this helps one to become “immaculate,” not in the sense of being free from a “stain,” but in becoming increasingly detached from sin and united with God.
“May the Virgin Mary help us to welcome with joy and gratitude the divine plan of love made in Jesus Christ,” he prayed.
At the end of the Angelus, Francis made an appeal against war, saying it brings “only death and destruction.”
“In many parts of the world there is a terrible air of tension,” he said. “I call on all parties to keep the flame of dialogue and self-control burning and to ward off the shadow of enmity. Let us pray in silence for the Lord to give us this grace.”
The pope also renewed his wishes “for serenity and peace in the Lord” on the first Sunday of 2020.
“In happy and difficult moments, let us entrust ourselves to him, who is our hope!” he urged, recalling the commitment to peace made on New Year’s Day, which was also the World Day of Peace.
“Peace as a path of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion,” he said. “With the grace of God, we can put it into practice.”