Pope Francis delivered a homily on New Years Day, which Catholics celebrate as the Solemnity of the Mother of God, before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City.

Before reciting the Angelus, the pope greeting the thousands of pilgrims assembled in front of St. Peter's Basilica:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

On the first page of the calendar of the New Year, which the Lord gives us, the Church puts as stupendous miniature the liturgical solemnity of Mary Most Holy, Mother of God. On this first day of the solar year, let us fix our gaze on her, to take up again, under her maternal protection, the journey along the paths of time.

Today’s Gospel (Luke 2:16-21) takes us back to the stable of Bethlehem. The shepherds arrive in haste and find Mary, Joseph, and the Child, and refer to the proclamation given to them by the Angels, namely, that that Newborn is the Saviour. All are astonished, while “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (v. 19). The Virgin makes us understand how the event of Christmas is to be received: not superficially but in the heart. She indicates the true way to receive God’s gift: to keep it in the heart and ponder it. It’s an invitation addressed to each one of us to pray, contemplating and enjoying this gift that is Jesus Himself.

It’s through Mary that the Son of God assumes corporeity. However, Mary’s maternity isn’t reduced to this: thanks to her faith, she is the first disciple of Jesus and this “dilates” her maternity. It was Mary’s faith that at Cana caused the first miraculous “sign,” which contributed to arouse the disciples’ faith. Mary is present with the same faith at the foot of the cross and receives as son the Apostle John. And, finally, after the Resurrection, she becomes the praying Mother of the Church, on which the Holy Spirit descends powerfully on the Day of Pentecost.

As Mother, Mary carries out a very special function: she puts herself between her Son Jesus and men in the reality of their privations, indigence, and sufferings. Mary intercedes, as at Cana, aware that, as Mother, she can, rather, must make present to her Son the needs of men, especially the weakest and most disadvantaged. It’s in fact to these persons that the theme is dedicated of the World Day of Peace that we celebrate today: “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in Search of Peace,” so is the motto of this Day. Once again, I wish to make myself voice of these our brothers and sisters, who invoke for their future a horizon of peace. For this peace, which is a right of all, many of them are prepared to risk their life in a journey that in most cases is long and dangerous; they are willing to face toils and sufferings (Cf. Message for the 2018 World Day of Peace, 1).

Please, let’s not extinguish the hope in their heart; let’s not suffocate their expectations of peace! It’s important that, on the part of all — civil institutions, educational, welfare, and ecclesial realities, there is the commitment to ensure to refugees, to migrants and to all a future of peace. May the Lord grant us to work in this New Year with generosity, with generosity, to bring about a more solidary and hospitable world. I invite you to pray for this, while together with you I entrust to Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, the <year> 2018 that has just begun. The old Russian monks, mystics, said that in times of spiritual turbulence it is necessary to recollect oneself under the mantle of the Holy Mother of God. Thinking of the many turbulences of today, and especially of migrants and refugees, we pray as they taught us to pray: “We seek refuge under your protection, Holy Mother of God: do not disdain the entreaties of us who are in trial, but deliver us from every danger, O glorious and Blessed Virgin. “

After the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the pope said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On the threshold of 2018, my warm wish goes to all of you for every good in the New Year.

I wish to thank the President of the Italian Republic for his good wishes to me yesterday evening in his end of the year message, which I return from my heart, wishing for the Italian people a year of serenity and peace, illumined by God’s constant blessing.

I express my appreciation for the many initiatives of prayer and actions for peace, organized throughout the world, on the occasion of today’s World Day of Peace. I’m thinking, in particular, of the National March held yesterday evening at Sotto il Monte, promoted by CEI [Italian Episcopal Conference], Italian Caritas, Pax Christi and Catholic Action. And I greet the participants in the “Peace in All Lands” manifestation, promoted in Rome and in many countries by Sant’Egidio Community. Dear friends, I encourage you to go forward joyfully in your commitment of solidarity, especially in the peripheries of cities, to foster peaceful coexistence.

My greeting goes to you dear pilgrims present here, in particular, those of New York, the musical band from California and the “Pro Loco” group of Massalengo.

I renew to all good wishes for a year of peace in the Lord’s grace and with the maternal protection of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Have a good year, a good lunch and don’t forget to pray for me. Goodbye!

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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