Vatican City, Jan 8, 2017 / 07:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis announced that his “urgent” prayer for the month of January is for all those who live on the streets with no shelter, expecially during the cold winter weather.
“During these very cold days, I think of and I invite you to think of all the people who live on the streets, affected by the cold and many times by indifference,” he said Jan. 8. “Unfortunately some didn’t make it. Let us pray for them, and let us ask the Lord to warm our hearts so as to be able to help them.”
The Pope made his appeal looking out over frozen St. Peter's Square and the thousands of pilgrims bundled up below the window to the Apostolic Palace. Temperatures in Rome have made a significant drop over the past few days, lowering enough to cause the fountains inside the square to freeze over, with ice on the cobblestone beside them where the water had splashed over.
Last week the Vatican announced that the Pope would be making some changes to his monthly prayer intentions in 2017, adding an “urgent” prayer intention himself each month, alongside the usual monthly intention, in order to garner rapid support for a cause.
His attention to the homeless isn't surprising, as it has been a consistent concern for Francis since the beginning of his pontificate. Not only did he have showers and a barber service installed in the bathrooms in St. Peter's Square to help the homeless stay clean and tidy, he has invited them to several events in the Vatican, including concerts and tours of the museums, and they have consistently been his special guests for breakfast on his birthday.
Pope Francis announced the special prayer intention during his Sunday Angelus address on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Earlier that morning he celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel and baptized 28 babies. The Baptism of the Lord is typically celebrated by the Church on the Sunday following Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, unless in a particular country the Epiphany is celebrated on Jan. 7 or 8, as it is in the US. In that instance the Baptism of the Lord is then celebrated the following Monday.
In his message before the Angelus, Francis said he would like to extend his “prayers to all parents who at this time are preparing for the Baptism of their child, or have just celebrated it.” “I invoke the Holy Spirit upon them, and on children, because this Sacrament, so simple and yet so important, is lived with faith and joy,” he continued.
Speaking about Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, Francis reflected on how John says to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” John the Baptist “is aware of the fact that there is great distance between him and Jesus. But Jesus came precisely to bridge the gap between man and God,” he said. “For that he asks John to baptize him, because it fulfills all righteousness, that is, you realize the plan of the Father which passes through the path of obedience and solidarity with the fragile and sinful man.”
This is one of the beautiful aspects of this feast day, the Pope noted. That it “makes us rediscover the gift and beauty” of being baptized people. That we are sinners “saved by the grace of Christ.” Through the Holy Spirit, we are able to enter into the filial relationship of Jesus to God the Father, and be “welcomed into the bosom of Mother Church,” a relationship that knows “no boundaries and barriers,” he said.
The example Jesus gives us through his own baptism, is an example of the missionary style of Christ’s disciples, Francis said, which is “to proclaim the Gospel with meekness and firmness, without arrogance or imposition.” The real mission is “never proselytism,” he continued, but “attraction to Christ,” which is brought out through strong union with God in “prayer, adoration and concrete charity, which is service to Jesus present in the least of our brothers.” “In imitation of Jesus, good and merciful Shepherd, and animated by his grace, we are called to make our life a joyful witness that illuminates the path, that brings hope and love,” he said.