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POPE’S MESSAGE | Sunday has lost its sense as day of rest, renewal in Christ

VATICAN CITY — Just like a plant needs sun and nourishment to survive, every Christian needs the light of Sunday and the sustenance of the Eucharist to truly live, Pope Francis said.

"How can we carry out the Gospel without drawing the energy needed to do it, one Sunday after another, from the limitless source of the Eucharist," he said Dec. 13 at his weekly general audience.

"We don't go to Mass to give something to God, but to receive from Him that which we truly need," the pope said. Sunday Mass is the time and place Christians receive the grace and strength to remain faithful to His word, follow His commandment to love others and be credible witnesses in the world.

The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass in the Vatican's Paul VI hall, which was decorated with a large Christmas tree and a life-sized Nativity scene. A number of people in the audience hall handed the pope — who turns 81 Dec. 17 — Christmas cards, notes and a chocolate cake.

In his catechesis, the pope responded to the question of why it is so important to go to Mass on Sundays and why it isn't enough just to live a moral life, loving others.

Sunday Mass isn't simply an obligation, he said. "We Christians need to take part in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with His presence alive in us and among us, can we put into practice His commandment and, in this way, be His credible witnesses."

"Just like a plant needs the sun and nourishment to live, every Christian needs the Sunday Eucharist to truly live," he said in summarized remarks to Arabic speakers.

"What kind of Sunday is it for a Christian if an encounter with the Lord is missing?" he asked in his primary talk.

Unfortunately, in many secularized countries, the Christian meaning of the day has been lost and is no longer "illuminated by the Eucharist" or lived as a joyous feast in communion with other parishioners and in solidarity with others, he said.

Also often missing is the importance of Sunday as a day of rest, which is a sign of the dignity of living as children of God, not slaves, he said.

"Without Christ, we are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of daily life with all its worries and the fear of tomorrow. The Sunday encounter with the Lord gives us the strength to live today with confidence and courage and to move forward with hope," he said. 

Pope: Prepare way for the Lord with prayer, acts of charity

VATICAN CITY — Advent is a time to make a renewed commitment to prayer and to caring for others, Pope Francis said.

"It is a time to recognize the holes to be filled in our lives, to smooth the roughness of pride and make space for Jesus who is coming," the pope said Dec. 10, the second Sunday of Advent.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer with an estimated 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis spoke about the Sunday Mass readings and particularly about the ways in which people today could respond to the prophet Isaiah's call to prepare the way of the Lord.

Isaiah says "every valley shall be filled in" and "every mountain and hill shall be made low" in preparation for the coming of the savior.

The personal valleys or voids to be filled, the pope said, are "sins of omission," especially "the fact that we do not pray or pray seldom."

The other omission, he said, is in taking care of others. Not only does charity alleviate material needs, but it can be an occasion for the giver to be like John the Baptist in "opening paths of hope in the desert of arid hearts."

The mountains and hills that need to be laid low, he said, are "pride, haughtiness and arrogance," which fill one's heart, leaving no room for the Lord.

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service 

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