By Christopher Wells
Pope Francis turned his thoughts to the season of Advent and the coming of a new liturgical year, as he met with pilgrims from two Dioceses in the south east part of Italy.
Advent brings "the newness" of our God
In his remarks to pilgrims from the Dioceses of Ugento-Santa Maria di Leuca and Molfetta-Ruvo-Giovinazzo-Terlizzi, Pope Francis said that the time of Advent is a time of “consolation and hope,” the beginning of “a new liturgical year, which brings with it the newness of our God, who is the ‘God of every consolation.’” The Holy Father called to mind a former Bishop of Molfetta, the Servant of God Don Tonino Bello, who had written, “We are inclined to new things because we are born for great things.” It’s true, Pope Francis said. “We are born to be with the Lord. When we allow God to enter, true newness arrives.”
Life, he continued, should not be spent in waiting for things which may never arrive; but in expectation, in the desire for the Lord “who always brings newness.” He explained this does not mean waiting around doing nothing, but “being active in love.” Christians, the Pope said, “are called to keep and spread the joy of anticipation: we await God, Who loves us infinitely, and Who, at the same time, waits for us” to be with Him forever in Heaven.
A time of joyful expectation
“I hope you will live out Advent in this way,” Pope Francis said, “as a time of consoling newness and joyful expectation.” Quoting Don Tonino once again, he said this world often seems full of fear – but that Advent responds to this with “the Gospel of Fearlessness,” the opposite of fear. Two words from the Gospel of the First Sunday of Advent sum up this message: “Look up,” and “raise up your heads.” If fear is holding us down, he said, “Jesus invites you to turn your gaze to heaven, from whence He will come.”
Pope Francis noted that the pilgrims – who come from Dioceses bordering the Mediterranean – “know well the beauty of the sea.” Looking out on the sea, he said, “you can think about the meaning of life: embraced by God, infinite beauty, you cannot remain docked in a safe port, but are called to leave the shore” and “venture out in to the open sea.” “Let us embrace the invitation of the Gospel,” the Pope said, echoing Don Tonino, the invitation “to stand on our feet, to rise up.” “Get up on your feet, let us turn our gaze to heaven,” he concluded. Then, he said, “we will feel the need to open our hands to our neighbour – and the consolation that we know how to give will heal our fears.”