VATICAN CITY — Christian joy is borne out of nearness to Christ, said Pope Francis during his Angelus address for the Third Sunday of Advent, adding that sad saints are a contradiction.
“You have never heard of a sad or gloomy-faced saint,” the Holy Father said. “That would be a contradiction.” Rather, the heart of a Christian is “full of peace because he knows to place his joy in the Lord, even in life’s difficult moments.”
Those who have faith are not spared difficulties, he noted. Rather, having faith means “having the strength to confront them, knowing that we are not alone. And this is the peace which God gives to his children.”
Pope Francis delivered his address to the thousands of pilgrims who had gathered in St. Peter's Square, many of whom had brought with them little statues of Baby Jesus to be blessed by the Holy Father. The traditional “Bambinelli Blessing” takes place each year on Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday.
The Pope told the crowds that, while the first two weeks are centered on remaining “spiritually vigilant” in expectation of the Lord's coming, the third week of Advent calls for “another interior attitude” — joy.
“The heart of man desires joy,” he said. However, the joy which Christians are called to live and give witness to, he said, “is that which comes from nearness to God, from his presence in our lives.”
From the moment “Jesus entered into history, through his birth in Bethlehem, humanity received the seed of God's kingdom,” the Pope said. And Christians need not wait until they reach heaven to experience joy, he added.
“Jesus himself is our joy.”
All baptized Christians, the Holy Father continued, are called to welcome “the presence of God in our midst and to help others to discover him or rediscover that which they have forgotten.”
Like John the Baptist, he said, referring to the Gospel reading for Gaudete Sunday, our mission is to “orient people to Christ — not to ourselves.” This is because the human heart reaches out to Christ, he said, “when it seeks joy and happiness.”
In St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle lists the conditions necessary for being “missionaries of joy”: “If this becomes our way of life,” the Pope said, “the Good News will enter many homes,” helping individuals and families “rediscover that, in Jesus, there is salvation.”
After leading the recitation of the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis greeted all those gathered in the square from around the world.
The Holy Father made special mention of pilgrims from Poland, lifting up a large candle as he did so, acknowledging that this is the day in which the Polish people light the “Christmas candle.” He also expressed solidarity with the people of Poland, who are celebrating the Year of Charity.
During the Angelus, volunteers distributed 50,000 small prayer books to pilgrims in the square. Pope Francis invited those present to each take one home, carrying it with them always, in order to help them “live each day with God.”
Pope Francis concluded his address by reminding everyone to pray for him wished them all “great joy.”