Dear brothers and sisters, On this first day of the year, in the joyful atmosphere of Christmas, the Church invites us to fix our gaze of faith and of love on the Mother of Jesus. In her, the humble woman of Nazareth, “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). Because of this it is impossible to separate contemplation of Jesus, the Word of life Who is made visible and tangible (cf. 1 Jn 1:1), from contemplation of Mary, who has given Him her love and her human flesh. Today we hear the words of the Apostle Paul: “God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). That “born of a woman” speaks in an essential manner, and for this reason even more strongly, expresses the true humanity of the Son of God. As a Father of the Church, St Athanasius, affirms, “Our Saviour was truly man, and from that comes the salvation of all humanity” (Letter to Epictetus: PG 26). But St Paul also adds “born under the law” (Gal 4:4). With this expression he emphasizes that Christ has taken up the human condition, freeing it from the closed, legalistic mentality. In fact, the law deprived of grace becomes an insupportable yoke, and instead of being good for us it is bad for us. This, then, is the end for which God sent His Son to earth to become man: a finality of liberation; indeed, of regeneration. Of liberation, “to ransom those under the law” (v. 5); and the ransom occurred with the death of Christ on the Cross. But especially of regeneration: “so that we might receive adoption as sons” (v. 5). Incorporated in Him, men and women really become children of God. This amazing transition takes place in us with Baptism, which grafts us into Christ as living members, and inserts us into the Church. At the beginning of a new year, it is good to remember the day of our Baptism: we rediscover the gift received in that Sacrament which has regenerated us to new life – the divine life. And this through Mother Church, which has as a model Mother Mary. Thanks to Baptism we were introduced into communion with God and we are no longer at the mercy of evil and sin, but [rather] we receive the love, the tenderness, the mercy of the heavenly Father. This closeness of God to our existence gives us true peace, the divine gift that we want especially to implore today, the World Day of Peace. “No longer slaves, but brothers”: this is the Message of this Day. It is a message that involves all of us. We are all called to combat every form of slavery and to build fraternity — all of us, each one according to his or her own responsibility. To Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, we present our good intentions. We ask you to extend the mantle of your maternal protection over each and every one of us in the new year: “O Holy Mother of God despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from all dangers, O glorious and blessed Virgin” (Sub tuum praesidium).After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, I extend to all of you my heartfelt greetings, wishing you a happy and peaceful new year. I greet in particular the pilgrims from the Scandinavian countries and from Slovakia; the faithful of Asola, Catiglione delle Stiviere, Sccolongo, Sotto il Monte, Bonate Sotto, and Benevento; the young people from Andria and Castenuovo del Garda. A heartfelt greeting to the Sternsinger [“Star boys”] who have come from the diocese of Fulda in Germany. I thank all the Sternsinger in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland for their commitment to go from house to house to proclaim the birth of the Lord and to collect offerings for needy children. Frohe Weihnachten und ein gutes neues Jahr [German: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year]. I turn my thoughts to all those, in dioceses around the world, who have promotted moments of payer for peace. I recall in particular the national march that took place yesterday in Vicenca, and the “Pace in tutte le terre” [“Peace throughout the world”] demonstration promoted in Rome and in numerous cities around the world. In this moment we are joined with Rovereto, in Trentino, where you will find the great bell known as “Maria Dolens,” which was made in honour of the fallen in all the wars, and was blessed by Blessed Paul VI in 1965. In a little while we will hear the tolling of that bell, that expresses the hope that there will never again be wars, but always a desire for and a commitment to peace and brotherhood among peoples. [The tolling of the bells is heard on speakers in the Square, courtesy of CTV.] Happy New Year to everyone! May it be a year of peace in the tender embrace of the Lord and with the maternal protection of Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother. Please, do not forget to pray for me! Buon pranzo, and arrivederci!