In his Angelus address for the second Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis spoke against the presumption that the need for conversion applies only to non-believers, and that Christians are somehow exempt.
“No one can say: 'I am holy, I am perfect, I am already saved',” the Pope said Dec. 6 to the crowds in St. Peter's Square. “No. We must always welcome this offer of salvation.”
Stressing that salvation is offered to everyone, the pontiff explained that this is the reason for the Year of Mercy: “to go ever forward along this path of salvation, that path which Jesus taught us. God wants all men to be saved through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator.”
“It is a pressing invitation to open our hearts and welcome the salvation which God incessantly, almost stubbornly, offers us, because he wants us to be freed from the slavery of sin,” the Pope said.
The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that will open this year on Dec. 8 — the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception — and will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Speaking two days ahead of the official start of the Jubilee of Mercy, the pontiff centered his pre-Angelus address on the theme of conversion, as shown in Gospel reading from the second Sunday of Advent in which John the Baptist proclaimed a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3: 3).
He challenged Christians to examine whether their sentiments are in line with those of Jesus'.
For instance, in the face of wrongdoing, “are we able to react without animosity, and forgive from the heart he who asks forgiveness?” the Pope asked, stressing how difficult forgiveness can be.
“When we must share joy or sorrow, do we know how to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice? When we must express our faith, do we know how to do so with courage and simplicity, without being ashamed of the Gospel?”
John the Baptist's words ring true in modern “deserts of humanity,” which are closed minds and hardened hearts, the Pope said, adding that the words of Isaiah cited in Sunday's Gospel to “prepare the way of the Lord” are relevant today.
We are therefore called “to make Jesus known to those who still do not know him,” the Pope said. However, this is done by opening “a door,” rather than by proselytizing.
He explained that this door is opened by the conviction shown by Christians who are truly in love with Jesus, and challenged the faithful as to whether they have this love and conviction.
“If the Lord Jesus has changed our life, and if there is change every time we go to Him, how can we not be passionate about making him known to everyone we meet at work, school, in our apartment building, in hospital, in places we find ourselves?”
“However, we must be brave: lower the mountains of pride and rivalry, refill the gullies dug up by indifference and apathy, straighten the path of our laziness and our compromises.”
Before leading those present in the Marian Angelus prayer, Pope Francis called on Mary's intercession to break down the “barriers and obstacles which impede our conversion” thereby allowing for our encounter with Jesus, who alone can give fulfillment to “all the hopes of man!”
After leading the crowds in St. Peter's Square in the Angelus, Pope Francis acknowledged the climate summit currently underway in Paris.
Referencing his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato, Si,” the Pope said: “For the sake of the common home of all of us and future generations, every effort in Paris should be aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change,” while at the same time combating poverty in order to help human dignity to thrive.
The fight against climate change and the fight against poverty go together, the pontiff said.
“Let us pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten all who are called to take such important decisions and give them the courage to keep as a criterion of choice for the greater good of the whole human family.”
Pope Francis also remarked on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's Joint Declaration between Blessed Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, which took place on Dec. 7, 1965 on the eve of the council's conclusion. The Joint Declaration is considered a major step in promoting reconciliation between the Holy See and the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople after the Great Schism of 1054.
The Pope said it is “providential” that this “historic gesture of reconciliation” is remembered at the opening of the Year of Mercy.
He asked for prayers for current ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I, and said for there to be an “authentic journey toward God” there is the need to “to ask forgiveness from God and from one another for the sins of division.”
“We ask the Lord that relations between Catholics and Orthodox be always inspired by fraternal love.”