On the readings, he noted that while all the readings are significant, the Gospel is especially important, which is seen by the fact that the priest kisses the text and incenses it before reading the daily passage, and the congregation stands to listen to the reading on their feet.
"From these signs the assembly recognizes the presence of Christ who brings them the good news which converts and transforms," he said, explaining that we don't stand to hear the Gospel itself, but Christ, who speaks to us through the reading.
"It's for this reason that we are attentive, because it's a direct conversation," he said.
Because of this, the Gospel isn't read during Mass simply to "know how things went," but to increase our awareness that these are the things Jesus himself said and did.
"The Word of Jesus which is in the Gospel is living and arrives to my heart," he said. And because Jesus still communicates with us through the Gospel readings, every Mass we must give him a response, Francis said, adding that "we listen to the Gospel and we must give a response in our lives."
According to the Vatican Gendarmerie, roughly 8,000 people attended the Pope's audience. After his address, they were all treated to a performance with juggling, balancing acts and other tricks by members of the Rony Rollers Circus. The spectacle has become a regular appearance in general audiences, with different circus troupes performing every few weeks.
Francis also noted how tomorrow marks the World Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking and voiced support for the event, which takes place annually on the Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita.
He also gave a shout-out to the Winter Olympics, which opens on Friday in Pyeongchang in South Korea, and which will be attended by Msgr. Melchor Sanchez de Toca, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, who is representing the Holy See at the opening ceremony Friday, Feb. 9.
This year's games will hold a special importance, he said, noting how the delegations from both North and South Korea will march in together under one flag depicting the entire Korean peninsula, and will compete as one team.
"This fact gives hope for a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully with dialogue and mutual respect, as sports teaches (us) to do," he said, and prayed that the Olympics would be "a great celebration of friendship and sport."
Elise Harris was senior Rome correspondent for CNA from 2012 to 2018.