By Vatican News staff writer
After presiding over the morning celebration of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Pope Francis greeted pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, offering his New Year’s good wishes and reflecting on the day’s liturgy. In the Church, the first day of the civil New Year is also observed as the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, as well as the World Day of Peace.
In today’s Gospel, we hear about the wonder of the crib when the shepherds hasten to see the Christ Child announced to them by the angel. The Pope said we can imagine Mary, “like a tender and caring mother,” placing Jesus in the manger, not only holding Him in her arms, but inviting us to look at Him in adoration and with welcome. “Behold Mary’s maternity,” he said. “She offers the Son who is born to all of us.”
God is near, within our reach
Mary’s presentation of Jesus gives us “a wonderful message” that “God is near, within our reach,” the Pope said, not in order to be feared but with the “frailness of someone who asks to be loved.” He added that God shared in our human condition to be with us as one of us, “born little and in need so that no one would ever again be ashamed,” and to draw ever nearer to us, excluding no one, making us all brothers and sisters.
God gives us courage with tenderness
“God with us” in the Christ Child gives us “courage with tenderness,” the Pope pointed out, and this needed encouragement is light in these uncertain and difficult times caused by the pandemic. The resulting economic and social problems cause fear for the future, the Pope acknowledged, recalling modern-day young mothers and their children fleeing conflicts and famine, or waiting in refugee camps. Like Mary, we too can make ourselves available to others to bring positive change in our world. “If we become craftsmen of fraternity, we will be able to mend the threads of a world torn apart by war and violence.”
Peace is a gift and shared commitment
Recalling today’s World Day of Peace, the Pope pointed out that peace comes from God and is the fruit of a shared commitment. We need to implore the gift of peace from on high, the Pope stressed, since we are not capable of preserving it without His help. We need to have peace in our hearts from the Prince of peace, he reiterated, saying we must also be committed to peace, by taking concrete actions. This means being attentive to the poor, working for justice, and having the courage to forgive others in order to put out the fire of hatred. We also need a positive outlook, he said, both in the Church and in society, that is fostered by seeing the “good that unites us.” The Pope added that “getting depressed or complaining is useless,” saying we need to “roll up our sleeves” and work for peace, praying that Mary, the Queen of Peace, may “obtain harmony in our hearts and in the entire world.”
After imparting his apostolic blessing, Pope Francis wished everyone peace in a special way on this New Year’s Day when the Church celebrates the annual World Day of Peace started by Saint Pope Paul VI back in 1968. He recalled this year’s message, which has as its theme: “Dialogue Between Generations, Education and Work: Tools for Building Lasting Peace,” recalling that these three elements are key for establishing a solid base for building peace in our world. The Pope also thanked the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, for his New Year’s Year’s greetings wishing him the same. He also paid tribute to all the pilgirms gathered in the Square, in particular members of the Sant’Egidio community working for peace around the world.