What Pope Francis urges us to focus on this Christmas

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WE won’t know till tonight what the Holy Father will tell in his Christmas message.

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But his last Angelus catechesis before Christmas (on Wednesday December 21) should have served as our guide since then.

He encouraged pilgrims who watched and listened at St. Peter’s Square to spend time reflecting on what it was like for Mary and Joseph to travel to Bethlehem. He asked us to imagine “the path, the fatigue, but also the joy, the emotion and then anxiety of finding a place, the worry” and many other wonders the praying mind could see.

As other sages, like St. Josemaria Escriva, have taught, Pope Francis urges us to contemplate the Nativity scene to keep focused on he what Christmas is about. Focusing on the Nativity, he hoped, would enable us to realize what Christmas truly means, that it is Jesus coming close to us and being Immanuel, “God with us.”

He said: “The grace of Christmas is one of love, humility and tenderness. And he prayed that all of us would receive this grace “with openness and confidence in God.”

Pope Francis focused his Angelus reflection on the figures of Mary and Joseph in the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew. In this reading, Joseph had at first decided to divorce Mary quietly (because he did not want to cause a scandal and punish his betrothed) after finding out about her being pregnant. But he changes his mind and takes her as his wife after the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a dream, telling him not to fear—because Mary’s child is that of God the Holy Spirit.

In becoming man, said the Pope, “God draws near to the human being taking the flesh of a woman,” noting that God also draws near to us, but in a different way.

Francis explained that “Through his grace, God enters our lives and offers his own Son as a gift, and this, the Pope said, makes us ask ourselves: “What do we do? Do we welcome him, or reject him, kicking him out?”

The Pope said that just as Mary allowed God to “change the destiny of mankind” by opening herself freely to him, we must also try to seek Jesus and to follow his will every day. If we do this, we will be able to cooperate “in his plan of salvation for us and for the world.”

He said, “Mary appears to us, then, as a model to look to and support on whom we count in our search for God and in our commitment to building a civilization of love.”

Of St. Joseph, Pope Francis said that as shown in the Gospel, on his own he couldn’t give comprehend and explain what he sees unfolding before him. But then, it is precisely in that moment that God draws near to him through the angel, revealing the true nature of Mary’s mysterious pregnancy.

Responding positively to God’s word, spoken to him through the angel, he no longer wants to “repudiate his bride, but takes her with him,” Pope Francis said, explaining that Joseph welcomed Mary with full knowledge and love for “he who in her was conceived by the marvelous work of God, for whom nothing is impossible.”

“Joseph, a humble and just man, teaches us to always trust in God, to let ourselves be guided by him with willing obedience,” said the Pope.

He concluded his Christmas Angelus meditation with the point that truly it is Mary and Joseph who introduce us “to the mystery of Christmas.” That “Mary helps us to put ourselves in an attitude of availability to welcome the Son of God in our concrete lives, in our flesh.”

And that “Joseph spurs us to always seek the will of God and to follow it with full trust.”

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