VATICAN — The devil is “couching at the door” of our hearts wanting to come in, Pope Francis warned on Sunday, but the Church invites all the faithful to welcome Jesus instead so that “we learn to be merciful like him.”
Addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, in his first Sunday Angelus of the new year, the pope returned to the biblical “beginning,” with a reflection on the prologue of the Gospel of St. John, specifically verse 14: “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”
Jesus Christ came to earth so that we might know the faithfulness of the Father’s love, he said. And yet today as then, “the gift of God’s love is met with unwelcome by men.”
“The Word is the light, and yet men preferred the darkness. The Word came unto his own, but they received him not” (cf. vv. 9–10). They closed the door in the face of the Son of God.
The devil is “couching at the door” of our hearts, wanting to come in, he added. But “woe to us if we allow evil to enter,” for once inside he would “close our door to anyone else.”
As the Christmas season continues, he said, Holy Mother Church invites all the Christian faithful, and all people, to “welcome the Word of salvation, this mystery of light.”
“If we welcome him, if we welcome Jesus, we will grow in knowledge and love of the Lord; we will learn to be merciful like him. Especially in this Holy Year of Mercy, let us ensure that the Gospel takes flesh more and more in our own lives too.”
A liturgical note: Although numerous bishops’ conferences have transferred the feast of the Epiphany to this Sunday to accommodate the faithful, the Vatican liturgical calendar has stayed true to tradition, and will mark the Solemnity of the Epiphany on Wednesday, January 6. On Sunday, the Vatican instead celebrated the Second Sunday after Christmas. In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the day is celebrated as the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Here below is a translation of Pope Francis’ first Sunday Angelus address for 2016.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Blessed Sunday. Today’s liturgy, on the Second Sunday after Christmas, presents us with the Prologue of the Gospel of St. John, in which it is proclaimed that “the Word” — that is, the creative Word of God — “became flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That Word, which dwells in heaven, i.e., in the dimension of God, came to earth so that we might listen to it, and be able to know and touch with our hands the Father’s love. God’s Word is his only-begotten Son made man, full of love and faithfulness (cf. John 1:14). It is Jesus himself.
The Evangelist does not conceal the dramatic nature of the Incarnation of God’s Son, underscoring that the gift of God’s love is met with unwelcome by men. The Word is the light, and yet men preferred the darkness; the Word came unto His own, but they received him not (cf. vv. 9–10). They closed the door in the face of the Son of God.
It is the mystery of evil that undermines our lives as well, and that demands vigilance and attentiveness from us, so that it does not prevail. The book of Genesis uses an apt phrase that helps us understand this. It says that evil “is couching at the door” (cf. Gen. 4:7). Woe to us if we allow it to enter in. It would then close our door to anyone else. We are called instead to throw open the door of our heart to the Word of God, to Jesus, in order to become his children.
On Christmas Day, this solemn beginning of the Gospel was proclaimed, and today again it is set before us. It is the invitation of Holy Mother Church to welcome this Word of salvation, this mystery of light. If we welcome him, if we welcome Jesus, we will grow in knowledge and love of the Lord; we will learn to be merciful like him. Especially in this Holy Year of Mercy, let ensure that the Gospel takes flesh more and more in our own lives too.
Drawing near to the Gospel, meditating on it, and incarnating it in daily life is the best way to know Jesus and bring him to others. This is the vocation and the joy of every baptized person: to show and give Jesus to others. But to do this, we have to know him, and have him dwelling within us, as the Lord of our life. And he defends us from evil, from the devil, who is always couching at our door, at our heart, wanting to enter.
With a renewed surge of filial abandonment, let us entrust ourselves once again to Mary as, over the course of these days, we contemplate her sweet image as mother of Jesus and our mother in the Nativity.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters,
On this first Sunday of the year I renew my good wishes of peace and goodness in the Lord to all. In happy times and in those that are sad, let us trust in Him, who is our mercy and our hope. I also remember the commitment we made on New Year’s Day, the World Day of Peace: “Overcome indifference and win peace.” Through the grace of God, we can put it into practice. And I also remember the advice I have given you many times: every day, read a passage from the Gospel, a passage from the Gospel, to know Jesus better, to open wide our hearts to Jesus, this is how we can make him better known to others. Carry a small Gospel in your pocket, in your bag: it will do us good. Don’t forget: Every day, let’s read a passage from the Gospel.
I wish you all a blessed Sunday and a good lunch. And, please, please, don’t forget to pray for me. Arrivederci.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.