Pope Francis: 'Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God'

AdventMass Vatican Media 1 Pope Francis offers Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Dec. 1, 2019. / Vatican Media/CNA.

On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis recommended a traditional Advent prayer to invite God to draw close during this new liturgical year.

"Advent is the season for remembering the closeness of God who came down to dwell in our midst," Pope Francis said in St. Peter's Basilica  Nov. 29.

"Let us make the traditional Advent prayer our own: 'Come, Lord Jesus.' … We can say it at the beginning of each day and repeat it often, before our meetings, our studies and our work, before making decisions, in every important or difficult moment of our lives: 'Come, Lord Jesus,'" the pope said in his homily.

Pope Francis stressed that Advent is both a time of  "God's closeness and our watchfulness".

"It is important to remain watchful, because one great mistake in life is to get absorbed in a  thousand things and not to notice God. Saint Augustine said: 'Timeo Iesum transeuntem' (I fear that Jesus will pass by me unnoticed). Drawn by our own interests … and distracted  by so many vain things, we risk losing sight of what is essential. That is why today the Lord repeats: 'To all, I say: be watchful,'" he said.

"Having to be watchful, however, means it is now night. Yes, we are not living in broad daylight, but awaiting the dawn, amid darkness and weariness. The light of day will come when we shall be with the Lord. Let us not lose heart: the light of day will come, the shadows of night will be dispelled,  and the Lord, who died for us on the cross, will arise to be our judge. Being watchful in expectation of his coming means not letting ourselves be overcome by discouragement. It is to live in hope."

The pope offered Mass on Sunday morning with 11 of the new cardinals created at the ordinary public consistory this weekend.

In his homily, he warned of the dangers of mediocrity, lukewarmness, and indifference in the Christian life.

"Without making an effort to love God daily and awaiting the newness he constantly brings, we become mediocre,  lukewarm, worldly. And this slowly eats away at our faith, for faith is the very opposite of mediocrity:  it is ardent desire for God, a bold effort to change, the courage to love, constant progress," he said.

"Faith is not water that extinguishes flames, it is fire that burns; it is not a tranquilizer for people under stress, it is a love story for people in love. That is why Jesus above all else detests lukewarmness."

Pope Francis said that prayer and charity are antidotes to mediocrity and indifference.

"Prayer rouses us from the tepidity of a purely horizontal existence and makes us lift our gaze to higher things; it makes us attuned to the Lord. Prayer allows God to be close to us; it frees us from our loneliness and gives us hope," he said.

"Prayer is vital for life: just as we cannot live without breathing, so we cannot be Christians without praying."

The pope quoted the opening prayer for the first Sunday of Advent: "Grant [us] … the resolve to run forth to meet Christ with righteous deeds at his coming."

"Jesus is coming, and the road to meet him is clearly marked: it passes through works of charity," he said.

"Charity is the beating heart of the Christian: just as one cannot live without a heartbeat, so one cannot be a Christian without charity."

Following the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus from the window of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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"Today, the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year begins. In it, the Church marks the passage of time with the celebration of the main events in the life of Jesus and the story of salvation. In so doing, as Mother, she illuminates the path of our existence, supports us in our daily occupations and guides us towards the final encounter with Christ,' he said.

The pope invited everyone to live this season of hope and preparation with "great sobriety" and simple moments of family prayer.

"The situation we are experiencing, marked by the pandemic, generates concern, fear and despair in many; there is the risk of falling into pessimism ... How should we react to all this? Today's Psalm recommends to us: 'Our soul awaits the Lord: He is our help and our shield. It is in Him that our hearts rejoice,'" he said.

"Advent is an incessant call to hope: it reminds us that God is present in history to lead it to its ultimate end, to lead it to its fullness, which is the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ," Pope Francis said.

"May Mary Most Holy, the woman of the expectation, accompany our steps at the beginning of this new liturgical year, and help us to fulfil the task of Jesus' disciples, indicated by the Apostle Peter. And what is that task? To render an account for the hope that is in us."

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