Pope Francis held his General Audience of Wednesday during Christmas week, stressing that the celebration of the birth of Jesus is a sign of our gratitude for the Father’s gift of Jesus and our desire to share Him with others.
Delivering his main catechesis in Italian in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, the Pope lamented that today, especially in Europe, there is a distortion of Christmas, which in the name of a “false respect”, sidelines faith and eliminates every reference to the birth of Jesus. But the Pope stressed that without Jesus there is no Christmas. The lights, sounds, various local traditions, including food, all go to create the atmosphere of a true Christmas, only if Jesus is the center, the Pope said.
Like the shepherds in the Gospel, the Pope said, we are led to discover the light of Jesus, who was born of an unknown poor girl in a stable, unknown to the world but over whom the angels exulted. Today, the Pope said, the Son of God continues to present Himself to us as God’s gift to humanity that prefers darkness and sleep, fearing God’s light will unveil our actions and thoughts that will embarrass us and prick our conscience.
Pope Francis explained that we can welcome God’s gift of Jesus by making a free gift of ourselves to those we encounter. This, the Pope stressed, is why we exchange gifts. With the incarnation of the Son, he said, God has opened the way to new life, that is based not on egoism but on love.
Pope Francis said that in this world that is ruled by the powerful, those in the margins of society are the first beneficiaries of God’s gift, which is, salvation brought by Jesus. Jesus establishes a friendship with the small and despised, like the shepherds, that continues in time and that nourishes the hope for a better future. With them, the Pope said, God wants to build a new world where there is no one who is rejected, maltreated and destitute. Pope Francis thus urged all to open their hearts and be God’s gift to others, especially to the small and excluded who have never experienced a caress, loving attention or tenderness.
Pope at General Audience: Full text in English of Pope Francis’ comments
Dear brothers and sisters: In this holy season of Christmas, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, who is God’s gift to us, our Saviour and the Light of the world. Without Jesus, there is no Christmas! Our traditional celebrations express our joy that God’s light shines in a world darkened by sin and injustice.
Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, we too are called to seek and find Jesus, who comes to us in hiddenness and poverty. Sadly, despite the coming of the light many prefer to live in darkness. Yet those who receive the gift of Jesus come to know God’s saving grace and the promise of a new life, based no longer on selfishness but on self-giving love. Our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas is ultimately a sign of our gratitude for the gift of Jesus and our desire to share him with others.
Christmas reminds us that God’s plan intersects with our history, and opens the way to a better future, a new world. This Christmas, may Jesus be born anew in each of us, so that by our lives, he may be a gift of salvation for all, especially the poor and those of our brothers and sisters who are most in need.