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Joy of the Third Sunday of Advent

"A Prophetic Proclamation Destined for the Whole of Humanity"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 18, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered Sunday before reciting the midday Angelus with the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

On this Third Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invites us to joy of the spirit, with the famous antiphon which takes up the exhortation of the Apostle Paul: "Rejoice in the Lord.... The Lord is at hand" (cf. Philippians 4:4,5). The first biblical reading of the Mass is also an invitation to joy. At the end of the seventh century B.C., the prophet Zephaniah addressed the city of Jerusalem and its people with these words: "Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! ... The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory" (3:14,17).

God himself is represented with similar sentiments: "He will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival" (Zephaniah 3:17,18a). This promise was fully realized in the mystery of Christmas, which we will celebrate within a week, and which it is necessary to renew in the "today" of our lives and in history.

The joy awakened by the liturgy in the hearts of Christians is not reserved to them alone: It is a prophetic proclamation destined for the whole of humanity, in particular, the poorest, in this case, those who are poor in joy!

Let us think of our brothers and sisters who, especially in the Middle East, in some areas of Africa and in other parts of the world, live the tragedy of war: What joy can they experience? What will their Christmas be like? Let us think of all the sick and lonely people who, in addition to having physical suffering, suffer in the spirit, as often they feel abandoned. How can one share joy with them without lacking respect for their suffering?

But let us also think of those, especially young people, who have lost the sense of authentic joy, and who seek it in vain where it is impossible to find: in the exasperated race for self-affirmation and success, in false amusements, in consumerism, in moments of drunkenness, in the artificial paradise of drugs and of other forms of alienation. We cannot fail to confront today's liturgy and its invitation -- "Rejoice!" -- with these tragic realities.

As at the time of the prophet Zephaniah, the Word of the Lord is addressed precisely to those who are being tested, "to life's wounded and orphans of joy." The invitation to joy is not an alienating message, or a sterile palliative, but rather a prophecy of salvation, an appeal for rescue that starts with inner renewal.

To transform the world, God chose a humble maiden from a town of Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and called her with this greeting: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." In these words is found the secret of the authentic Christmas. God repeats them to the Church and to each one of us. Rejoice, the Lord is at hand! With Mary's help, let us give ourselves with humility and courage so that the world will welcome Christ, who is the source of authentic joy.

[At the end of the Angelus, the Pope greeted pilgrims in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

My thoughts go today to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees in Syria, obliged to leave their country because of the dramatic situation that is being lived there. Caritas-Syria is going all-out to assist them.

However, I am launching an appeal to the sensitivity of private individuals, international organizations and governments so that they will make further efforts to address their most urgent needs. I raise my prayer to the Lord that he may give consolation to these brothers and sisters and move the hearts of many people to generosity.

[In English, he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today's Angelus. As we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent, we are called to purify our hearts and to open them with joy to Christ our Lord and Savior. He comes to us in our humanity, offering us a share in his divinity. May your stay in Rome renew your faith in the Lord, and may he grant you all a blessed Sunday!

[Benedict XVI then added in Italian:]

I address a special greeting to the children and youngsters of Rome, who have come with their families and teachers for the blessing of the figurines of the Child Jesus, which they will place in the Cribs of their homes, schools and parishes. I thank the Center of Parishes of Rome which has organized this significant pilgrimage and from my heart I bless the figurines of the Child Jesus. Dear children, at the Crib pray also to Jesus for the Pope's intentions! I thank you and I wish you a happy Christmas!

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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