Mercy is stronger than violence and injustice, Pope says

New Year CNA Pope Francis celebrates New Year's Day Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God of Jan. 1, 2015. | Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

The miseries of the world are powerless against the mercy of God, whose entrance into history brought about a new era for humanity, Pope Francis said at the opening Mass of the new year.

"History does not determine the birth of Christ; rather, his coming into the world enables history to attain its fullness," the Pope said in his homily Friday morning in Saint Peter's Basilica.

"For this reason, the birth of the Son of God inaugurates a new era, a new computation of time, the era which witnesses the fulfilment of the ancient promise."

Pope Francis delivered these remarks during Mass for the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which is celebrated each year on Jan. 1.

In his homily, the Pope centered his reflection on the day's second reading from Saint Paul to the Galatians which speaks of God having been "born of a woman" in the "fullness of time."

Taking into account that moment in history, under the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus, the pontiff explained how Jesus' birth in the "fullness of time" should not be seen in a geopolitical context. Rather, it should be considered from God's fulfillment of his promise to humanity.

The fullness of time is God's presence in history, he said. "Now we can see his glory, which shines forth in the poverty of a stable; we can be encouraged and sustained by his Word, made 'little' in a baby. Thanks to him, our time can find its fullness."

However, Pope Francis noted how the mystery of God's entrance into history "clashes" with the human experience of injustice and violence against the weak and the innocent.

"How can the fullness of time have come when we are witnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights?" the Pope asked.

Nonetheless, while this "torrent of misery, swollen by sin, seems to contradict the fullness of time brought by Christ," he said, these miseries are overcome by God's mercy.

"This swollen torrent is powerless before the ocean of mercy which floods our world," he said.

"All of us are called to immerse ourselves in this ocean, to let ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference which blocks solidarity, and to leave behind the false neutrality which prevents sharing."

"The grace of Christ, which brings our hope of salvation to fulfilment, leads us to cooperate with him in building an ever more just and fraternal world, a world in which every person and every creature can dwell in peace, in the harmony of God's original creation."

Pope Francis turned his reflection to Mary, saying how the Church invites the faithful at the opening of the new year to contemplate her "divine maternity as an icon of peace."

"In her, the ancient promise finds fulfilment," he said. "She believed in the words of the angel, conceived her Son and thus became the Mother of the Lord. Through her, through her 'yes', the fullness of time came about."

The Pope recalled the day's Gospel reading which recounts the shepherds visiting the newly-born Jesus, and observed how Mary "treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart" (Lk 2:19).

"She appears to us as a vessel filled to the brim with the memory of Jesus, as the Seat of Wisdom to whom we can have recourse to understand his teaching aright," he said.

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"Today Mary makes it possible for us to grasp the meaning of events which affect us personally, events which also affect our families, our countries and the entire world."

"Where philosophical reason and political negotiation cannot reach, there the power of faith, which brings the grace of Christ's Gospel, can reach, opening ever new pathways to reason and to negotiation."

The Pope concluded by appealing to Mary, saying: "Send us your blessing on this day consecrated to your honour. Show us the face of Jesus your Son, who bestows upon the entire world mercy and peace."

Following the Mass, Pope Francis delivered his Angelus address to pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square, in which he reflected on the need to sustain real hope amid the "many problems of yesterday" which will still be present in the new year.

God is patient with us, and does not tire of helping us begin again each time we fall, the pontiff said.

However, God "does not use a magic wand" to change us, he observed. Rather, he seeks to bring about change "from within, with patience and love."

"He asks to enter into our lives gently, like rain in the earth, to bear fruit. And he is always there waiting and watching us with tenderness."

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Pope Francis recalled how Jan. 1 is also the World Day of Peace, which this year has the theme: "Overcome indifference and win peace." He explained how we are not only called to cultivate peace, but to "conquer" it.

"This involves a real struggle, a spiritual battle that takes place in our hearts," the Pope said. "The enemy of peace is not only war, but also indifference, which makes us think only of ourselves and creates barriers, suspicions, fears, and closures."

The pontiff thanked God for the large amount of information available, but nonetheless noted how it can distract us from the needs of others.

Instead, he said we need to begin opening "our hearts, awakening attention to the next, to those who are closest. This is the way to win the peace."

Before leading the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope called the faithful to entrust the new year to Mary, "in order that peace and mercy may grow."

After the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted the members of the various movements who were present.

Finally, referencing the day's first Mass reading, the Pope concluded by calling on the faithful to pray each morning for God to "shine his face" on us, and invited those in the square to repeat after him: "Today, the Lord makes his face to shine upon me."

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