VATICAN CITY — The proclamation of John the Baptist to “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” is a joyful one that calls us to conversion, Pope Francis said in his Dec. 4 Angelus address.

Referring to the Gospel reading for the Second Sunday of Advent from Matthew 3:1-12, the Pope noted that the proclamation of John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, is also repeated several times by Jesus himself throughout the Gospel of Matthew.

“With these same words, Jesus will start his mission in Galilee (Matthew 4:17); and this will also be an announcement that will bring the disciples on their first missionary experience (Matthew 10:7),” he said.

This “joyful proclamation” is central to Christian mission, the Holy Father said.

“When a missionary goes, a Christian goes to proclaim Jesus, he does not go to proselytize, as if it was a fan who seeks [a following] for his team more closely. No, (they go) to announce: ‘The kingdom of God is among you!’”

It is so joyful because we do not have to wait for the kingdom of God sometime in the future: We can experience some of its beauty and joy here on earth, the Pope added.

But the condition is conversion.  

“Be converted every day, one step forward every day,” Francis said.

He encouraged the faithful to convert and prepare the way of the Lord in their hearts by examining their consciences and leaving behind the “convenient but misleading ... idols of this world: success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price.”

“Christmas is a day of great joy, also exterior [enjoyment], but is primarily a religious event for which spiritual preparation is needed,” Pope Francis said.

“In this Advent season, let us be guided by the exhortation of John the Baptist: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his paths.’”

After the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims from Rome, Spain and Croatia. He also reminded the faithful that he would see them again on Thursday for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and asked for their prayers.  

“These days we pray together, asking her maternal intercession for the conversion of hearts and the gift of peace,” he said.

“And please, do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch. On Thursday!”