In the Vigil mass, the invitation to “serve Jesus in the poor” and to “resuscitate hope in those who have lost it”
“Tonight, what does it still say to our lives? Two millennia after the birth of Jesus, after many Christmases celebrated with decorations and gifts, after so much consumerism that has wrapped up the mystery we celebratethere is a risk: we know many things about Christmas, but we forget its meaning“. The Pope celebrated Christmas Eve mass in the Vatican Basilica, inviting us to rediscover the true essence of Christmas. Seven thousand faithful attended in the Basilica, while another three thousand followed him from the big screens in St. Peter’s Square.
“How to rediscover the meaning of Christmas? And above all, where to go to look for it? The Gospel of the birth of Jesus seems to have been written for this very reason: to take us by the hand and lead us back to where God wants”, explains Francis. The Pope points out that “it begins with a situation similar to ours: everyone is busy and busy with an important event to be celebrated, the great census, which required many preparations. In this sense, the atmosphere at the time was similar to the one that envelops us today at Christmas. But the story of the Gospel distances itself from that worldly scenario: it soon ‘detaches’ the image to go and frame another reality, on which it insists. It lingers on a small, seemingly insignificant object, which it mentions for three times and on which the protagonists of the story converge: first Mary, who places Jesus ‘in a manger’; then the angels, who announce to the shepherds ‘a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger’; then the shepherds, who they find ‘the child, lying in the manger'”.
Bergoglio points the way: “The manger: to rediscover the meaning of Christmas, you have to look there. But why is the manger so important? Because it is the non-random sign with which Christ enters the scene of the world. It is the manifesto with which he presents himself, the way in which God is born in history to make history be reborn. So what does the manger want to tell us? At least three things: closeness, poverty and concreteness“.
POOR AND CHARITY – “It really isn’t Christmas without the poor. Let charity be born again” the Pope admonished. “The manger of Bethlehem, – says Francis – as well as being close, speaks to us of poverty. In fact, there isn’t much around a manger: scrub, some animals and little else. People stayed warm in hotels, not in the cold barn of a lodging house. But Jesus was born there and the manger reminds us that he had nothing around him except those who loved him: Mary, Joseph and some shepherds; all poor people, united by affection and amazement, not by riches and great possibilities. The poor manger therefore brings out the true riches of life: not money and power, but relationships and people. And the first person, the first wealth, is Jesus”.
Bergoglio then questions consciences: “But do we want to be at his side? Do we draw close to him, do we love his poverty? Or do we prefer to remain comfortable in our interests? Above all, do we visit him where he is, that is, in the poor mangers of our world? There He is present”. Then the message to the men of the Church: “We are called to be a Church that adores Jesus poor and serves Jesus in the poor. Of course, it is not easy to leave the warm warmth of worldliness to embrace the bare beauty of the grotto in Bethlehem, but let us remember that it really isn’t Christmas without the poor. Without them we celebrate Christmas, but not that of Jesus. Brothers, sisters, at Christmas God is poor: may charity be reborn!”.
Bergoglio invites us to move from words to deeds: “The manger speaks to us of concreteness. In fact, a child in a manger represents a striking, even crude scene. It reminds us that God truly became flesh. plus theories, beautiful thoughts and pious sentiments. Jesus, who was born poor, will live poor and die poor, he didn’t make many speeches about poverty, but he lived it to the fullest for us. From the manger to the cross, his love for us was tangible, concrete: from birth to death, the carpenter’s son embraced the roughness of wood, the roughness of our existence. He didn’t love us in words, he didn’t love us in jest! And therefore, he is not satisfied with appearances. He doesn’t just want good intentions, He who became flesh. He who was born in the manger seeks a concrete faith, made up of adoration and charity, not of gossip and exteriority. He, who lays bare in the manger and will lay bare on the cross, asks us for the truth, to go to the bare reality of things, to lay excuses, justifications and hypocrisies at the foot of the manger. He, who was tenderly wrapped in swaddling clothes by Mary, wants us to clothe ourselves with love. God doesn’t want appearances, but concreteness”. Hence the warning: “Let’s not let this Christmas go by without doing something good. Since it’s his party, his birthday, let’s make him welcome gifts! At Christmas, God is concrete: in his name, let us revive a little hope in those who have lost it!”.
POWER, WARS AND MONEY – “Men in the world, hungry for power and money, also consume their neighbors, their brothers. How many wars! And in how many places, even today, dignity and freedom are trampled on!” remember the Pope. “And the main victims of human voracity are always the frail, the weak”, the Pontiff articulates in the Vatican Basilica. Bergoglio denounces the voracity of men: “Even this Christmas a humanity insatiable for money, power and pleasure makes no room, as it was for Jesus, for the little ones, for so many unborn, poor, forgotten people. I think above all of the children devoured by wars , poverty and injustice. But Jesus comes right there, a child in the manger of waste and rejection. In Him, child of Bethlehem, there is every child. And there is the invitation to look at life, politics and history through the eyes of children“.
The Pontiff points his finger at global indifference, calling things by their proper name: “God takes his seats in the manger of rejection and discomfort: he comes there, because therein lies humanity’s problem, the indifference generated by voracious haste to possess and consume. Christ was born there and in that manger we discover him nearby. He comes where food is devoured to become our food. God is not a father who devours his children, but the Father who makes us his children in Jesus and feeds us with tenderness. He comes to touch our hearts and to tell us that the only force that changes the course of history is love. He does not remain distant and powerful, but becomes close and humble; He, who sat in heaven, let it rest in a manger”.
Bergoglio invites us not to give in to resignation: “Brother, sister, God is close to you tonight because he cares about you. The Christmas manger, the first message of an infant God, tells us that He is with us, loves us, seek. Courage, do not let yourself be overcome by fear, by resignation, by discouragement. God is born in a manger to make you reborn right there, where you thought you had hit rock bottom. There is no evil, there is no sin from which Jesus want and cannot save you. Christmas means that God is near: may trust be reborn!”