.- On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis focused his Sunday Angelus message on the importance of Mary as a model for the Christian life.
“The Virgin Mary is not far from this love (of God): all of her life, all of her being is a ‘yes’ to God,” he said to the crowds filling St. Peter’s Square Dec. 8.
“Let us look at her, and let us look to her,” encouraged Pope Francis, “in order to be more humble, and even more courageous in following the Word of God, to receive the tender embrace of her son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope, and peace.”
Mary’s ‘yes’ to God “was certainly not easy for her!” he exclaimed. “When the angel called her ‘full of grace’ she remained ‘troubled,’ because in her humility she felt unworthy before God.”
Despite her concerns, “Mary listens, obeying interiorly and responds, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word’.”
This witness serves as an example for every Christian. “With great joy the Church contemplates Mary as ‘full of grace’,” Pope Francis explained. He encouraged the crowds to repeat with him, “full of grace!”
Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus, but “we too… are chosen by God to live a life of holiness, free from sin. It is a project of love that God renews every time we come close to him, especially in the sacraments,” the Pope said.
“Mary sustains us in our journey towards Christmas, because she teaches us to live this time of Advent in waiting for the Lord.”
Pope Francis recalled Mary’s humble origins.
“The Gospel of Luke presents us with a young girl from Nazareth, a little place in Galilee, on the periphery of the Roman Empire and also on the periphery of Israel. Yet upon her was the gaze of the Lord, who chose her to be the mother of His Son.”
“The mystery of this young girl from Nazareth, which is in the heart of God, is not irrelevant to us,” reflected the pontiff. “In fact, God places his gaze of love on every man and every woman.”
The Pope noted that the second Sunday of Advent this year falls on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
“On this feast day, then, contemplating our Immaculate Mother, we also recognize our true destiny, our deepest vocation: to be loved, to be transformed by love.”
The pontiff then led the crowds in the traditional Angelus prayer. Afterward, he greeted the pilgrim groups present. He said that he was particularly close to the Church in North America, which on Sunday “recalls the foundation of its first parish, 350 years ago, ‘Notre Dame de Quebec’.”
Pope Francis concluded by asking everyone to join him in prayer later Sunday afternoon at the Piazza di Spanga, at the base of Rome’s famous Spanish Steps. There, he will follow an ancient tradition of praying at the base of a monument to Mary to mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The Pope ended his remarks by wishing the crowds a good feast day and a good lunch.