November 29, 2020
Pope Francis and the new Cardinals created during Saturday’s Consistory concelebrate Mass on the First Sunday of Advent inviting the faithful to get close to the Lord and to serve their neighbours.
By Linda Bordoni
Celebrating Holy Mass on the First Sunday of Advent together with 11 new Cardinals who received their red hats from him just hours earlier, Pope Francis invited the faithful to ask the Lord to awaken within them the desire to pray and the need to love.
The celebration came on the heels of a Consistory on Saturday afternoon during which the Pope created 13 new cardinals from different continents. Two of them, Cardinal Cornelius Sim from Brunei and Jose Advincula from the Philippines, were unable to attend in person because of covid-related travel restrictions.
At the heart of the Pope’s homily was the plea to God “to rouse us from the slumber of mediocrity” and “awaken us from the darkness of indifference.”
He drew inspiration from the liturgical readings of the day that, he noted, propose two key words for the Advent season: closeness and watchfulness: God’s closeness and our watchfulness.
The Pope explained that the prophet Isaiah says that God is close to us, while in the Gospel Jesus urges us to keep watch in expectation of his return.
Reflecting on the word Closeness, as it is conceived by Isaiah, the Holy Father said “Advent is the season for remembering that closeness of God who came down to dwell in our midst.”
He recalled the prophet who goes on to ask God to draw close to us once more invoking Him to “tear open the heavens and come down!” (Is 64:1).
The Pope said we prayed for this in today’s responsorial psalm and explained that “the first step of faith is to tell God that we need him, that we need him to be close to us.”
Reiterating that this is also the first message of Advent and the liturgical year, the Pope said “we need to recognize God’s closeness and to say to him: “Come close to us once more!”
Noting that God wants to draw close to us, but will not impose Himself, he said it is up to us to invite Him into our lives today.
Advent, he said, reminds us “that Jesus came among us and will come again at the end of time,” and he invited the faithful to recite the traditional “Come, Lord Jesus” prayer at “the beginning of each day and repeat it frequently, before our meetings, our studies and our work, before making decisions, in every important or difficult moment of our lives: Come, Lord Jesus!”
Pope Francis then focused on the idea of “watchfulness” explaining that “If we ask Jesus to come close to us, we will train ourselves to be watchful.
In today’s Gospel reading, Mark presents us with the end of Jesus’ final address to his disciples, which, he said: “can be summed up in two words: “Be watchful!”
“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,” he said, pointing to the very real danger of being so “drawn by our own interests, and distracted by so many vain things, we risk losing sight of what is essential.”
The fact that we need to watchful, Pope Francis explained, “means it is now night,” in fact we are “awaiting the dawn, amid darkness and weariness. The light of day will come when we shall be with the Lord.”
Living in hope
In the certainty that the shadows of night will be dispelled, the Pope said “Being watchful in expectation of His coming means not letting ourselves be overcome by discouragement. It is to live in hope.”
“If we are awaited in Heaven, why should we be caught up with earthly concerns? Why should we be anxious about money, fame, success, all of which will fade away? Why should we waste time complaining about the night, when the light of day awaits us?” he said.
But Pope Francis observed that staying awake is not easy: “at night, it is natural to sleep.”
He recalled that even Jesus’s disciples did not manage to stay awake even he told them to, to the extent that they dozed off on various occasions and denied Him, letting Him be condemned to death.
“That same drowsiness can overtake us. There is a dangerous kind of sleep: it is the slumber of mediocrity. It comes when we forget our first love and grow satisfied with indifference, concerned only for an untroubled existence,” he said.
The power of faith
Faith, the Pope explained, is the very opposite of mediocrity: “it is ardent desire for God, a bold effort to change, the courage to love, constant progress. 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!”
Asking the question “How can we rouse ourselves from the slumber of mediocrity?”, the Pope answered “With the vigilance of prayer.”
Prayer, he said, 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 solitude and gives us hope. Prayer is vital for life: just as we cannot live without breathing, so we cannot be Christians without praying,” he said.
And warning against the slumber of indifference, the Pope said those who affected by indifference are unconcerned about those all around them, indifferent to the needs of others.
He said night descends in their hearts, and immediately they begin to complain about everything and everyone; they start to feel victimized by everyone and end up brooding about everything.
The watchfulness of charity
The way to rouse ourselves from the slumber of indifference, the Pope continued, is with the watchfulness of charity.
“Charity is the beating heart of the Christian: just as one cannot live without a heartbeat, so one cannot be a Christian without charity,” he said.
Being compassionate, helping and serving others, he explained, “are the only things that win us the victory, since they are already aiming towards the future, the day of the Lord, when all else will pass away and love alone will remain.”
“It is by works of mercy that we draw close to the Lord.”
Pope Francis concluded reminding Christians to pray and to love: “Let us now call out to him. Come, Lord Jesus, we need you! Draw close to us. You are the light. Rouse us from the slumber of mediocrity; awaken us from the darkness of indifference. Come, Lord Jesus, take our distracted hearts and make them watchful. Awaken within us the desire to pray and the need to love.”