.- Faith in God's unending love does not take away the struggle for a decent life, but it does liberate men and women from the things of this world and fear of the future, said Pope Benedict XVI from St. Peter's Square.
The Sunday Angelus prayer brought many pilgrims and Romans out to the square under the Pope's studio window despite a relatively cold day for Italy. Many of those present also took advantage of the traditional free entry to the Vatican Museums available to all comers every last Sunday of the month.
In his pre-Angelus message, Pope Benedict called Sunday's readings some of the most "touching" in the Bible.
"He who believes in God ... puts the search for his kingdom and his will in the first position," commented the pontiff, calling this attitude "precisely the opposite of fatalism."
"Faith in providence, in fact, does not dispense one of the difficult struggle for a decent life, but liberates from the anxiety for things and the fear of tomorrow," he added.
His remarks drew upon the brief first reading from Scripture, where the prophet Isaiah consoles Jerusalem in its misfortune. "Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you," he writes.
This invitation to have confidence in God's steadfast love is also present in the Gospel reading from Matthew, explained Pope Benedict.
Jesus exhorts his disciples to place their faith in the same providence that feeds the birds of the sky, "clothes" the wild flowers in the field and "knows man's necessities," the Pope recounted.
The Lord tells the disciples, "do not worry and say, âWhat are we to eat?â or âWhat are we to drink?â or âWhat are we to wear?â All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all."
Pope Benedict said that this discourse "could seem unrealistic, if not evasive" in light of the misery in which some people live. "In reality," he explained, "the Lord wants to make it clearly understood that you cannot serve two masters: God and riches."
Although Jesus' teaching is "clear and valid for all," it can be practiced in a variety of ways depending on one's vocation, continued the Pope. The Franciscan friar follows these words "more radically," for example, while the father of a family has the duty of providing for his wife and children.
"In any case, though, the Christian is distinguished by absolute trust in the Heavenly Father, as it was for Jesus. It is precisely the relationship with God the Father that gives meaning to the entire life of Christ, to His words, His actions of salvation, to His passion, death and resurrection.
"Jesus has demonstrated to us what it means to live with our feet well planted on the ground, attentive to the concrete situations of our neighbors, and at the same time keeping always in the heart in heaven, immersed in the mercy of God.
The Pope concluded by inviting prayers for Mary's intercession for the protection of individuals, the path of the Church and the events of history.
"In particular, we invoke her intercession so that we all learn to live according to a simpler and more sober lifestyle in daily activity and in respect for creation, which God has entrusted to our protection."
In his French greeting after the Angelus prayer, the Pope invited the faithful to be witnesses of God's love to all those around them and to pray "that justice and dialogue might prevail over violence and profit."