Pope Francis speaks during the Angelus prayer. | Vatican Media
On the first Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded Christians that an essential ingredient for living an alert and joyful life is prayer.
“Be awake, guard your heart,” the pope said in his message before the Angelus it’s afternoon. “And let’s add an essential ingredient: the secret to being watchful is prayer.”
“In fact, Jesus says: ‘Keep awake at all times praying’ (Luke 21:36). It is prayer that keeps the lamp of the heart burning. Especially when we feel that enthusiasm is cooling, prayer rekindles it, because it brings us back to God, to the centre of things,” he added.
The pope also emphasized that “prayer awakens the soul from sleep and focuses it on what matters, on the end of existence.”
“Even on the busiest days, let’s not neglect prayer,” he urged, recommending an easy prayer to say during Advent: “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”
“Let’s repeat this prayer throughout the day, and the soul will remain alert,” he said.
From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis delivered his weekly Angelus reflection on the day’s Gospel according to St. Luke, in which Jesus warns his disciples about the end of the world and his second coming.
“The Gospel of today’s liturgy, the first Sunday of Advent, that is, the first Sunday of preparation for Christmas, speaks to us of the coming of the Lord at the end of time,” the pope explained.
“Jesus announces desolating events and tribulations, but precisely at this point he invites us not to be afraid,” Francis continued. “Why? Because will everything be okay? No, but because he will come. Jesus will come back, Jesus will come, he promised it. He says thus: ‘Rise up and lift up your heads, for your deliverance is near.’”
The pope warned people not to become “sleepy Christians,” who let their hearts become lazy and “their spiritual life soften into mediocrity.”
“We need to be vigilant so as not to drag the days into routine, so as not to be burdened – says Jesus – by the troubles of life,” he stated.
Francis said the beginning of Advent is a good time to ask ourselves what is weighing down our hearts and burdening our spirits: “What are the mediocrities that paralyze me, the vices, what are the vices that crush me to the ground and prevent me from raising my head?”
We should also ask ourselves if we are attentive or indifferent to the burdens of our brothers and sisters, he added. “These questions are good for us because they help guard the heart against acedia.”
Acedia, also called sloth, “is a great enemy of the spiritual life,” he said. “Acedia is that laziness that falls, slips into sadness, which takes away the enjoyment of life and the desire to act.”
According to Francis, this negative spirit “nails the soul down in numbness, robbing its joy.”
He said “precisely in the moments when everything seems over, the Lord comes to save us; await him with joy even in the heart of tribulations, in the crises of life and in the dramas of history. Wait for the Lord.”
“Let us pray to Our Lady: may she, who awaited the Lord with a vigilant heart, accompany us on the journey of Advent,” he stated.
After praying the Angelus in Latin, the pope noted the presence in St. Peter’s Square of a fraternal association of migrants and non-migrants with whom he met yesterday.
He reflected on how many lives are lost at the borders, and said he was sad to hear about the migrants, including children, who died recently in the English Channel, in the Mediterranean, and at the border of Belarus: “I have so much pain thinking about them.”
Francis also noted that migrants who are forced to return to their home countries sometimes face capture by human traffickers who sell them into slavery.
“To migrants who find themselves in these situations of crisis, I assure you of my prayers, and also of my heart: know that I am always close to you,” the pope stated.
“Pray and act,” he added. “I thank all the institutions of both the Catholic Church and elsewhere, especially the national Caritas and all those who are committed to alleviating their suffering.”
Francis made an appeal to those in a position to help find a solution to the problems which lead to the death and exploitation of immigration and refugees, “so that understanding and dialogue finally prevail over any kind of exploitation and direct the will and efforts towards solutions that respect the humanity of these people.”
“Let us think of migrants, of their suffering, and pray in silence,” he said, pausing for prayer.