Christmas proclaims hope, charity where fear reigns, pope says

| December 25, 2017 | 1 Comment
Christmas

Pope Francis walks with children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Christmas calls believers to see God’s presence where he is often perceived as absent, especially in the “unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighborhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors,” Pope Francis said.

“Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity,” the pope said Dec. 24 as he celebrated Christmas Mass.

The evening silence enveloping St. Peter’s Square was broken by the pealing of church bells following the proclamation of Jesus’ birth during the Christmas Mass.

Pope Francis walked toward the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, and stood while the cantor sang the solemn “Christmas proclamation,” recounting the timing of Christ’s birth in human history.

He then removed a cloth that revealed a statue of the baby Jesus and gently leaned forward, reverently kissing it.

In his homily, Pope Francis said the “simple story” of Jesus’ birth recounted in St. Luke’s Gospel brings Christians to “the heart of that holy night” and “plunges us into the event that changes our history forever.”

“Everything, on that night, became a source of hope,” the pope said.

While Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem was full of expectation and hope for the coming birth of Jesus, the pope said, it was also a journey full of the same uncertainties and dangers that await those “who have to leave their home behind.”

In Mary and Joseph’s footsteps, he said, “so many other footsteps are hidden.”

“We see the footsteps of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the footsteps of millions of people who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,” he said.

For some people, the departure is filled with hope for the future, he said. “Yet for many others, this departure can only have one name: survival. Surviving the Herods of today who, to impose their power and increase their wealth, see no problem in shedding innocent blood.”

On that Christmas night, he continued, the announcement of “the one who had no place to be born” was proclaimed to poor shepherds — men and women who “had no place at the table or in the streets of the city.”

Although feared and considered “pagans among the believers, sinners among the just and foreigners among the citizens,” the pope said, it was the shepherds who were chosen to receive the good news of Christ’s birth from the angel.

“This is the joy that we tonight are called to share, to celebrate and to proclaim. The joy with which God, in his infinite mercy, has embraced us pagans, sinners and foreigners, and demands that we do the same,” the pope said.

Pope Francis called on all Christians to be “messengers of hope” to those who cast aside in the world, and he prayed that the cry of the little child of Bethlehem would “shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering.”

“May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives,” the pope prayed. “May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.”

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Category: From the Pope

  • Charles C.

    I hope someone can explain things to me, this Pope’s words have me baffled. Here’s the latest example from the article.

    “While Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem was full of expectation and hope for the coming birth of Jesus, the pope said, it was also a journey full of the same uncertainties and dangers that await those ‘who have to leave their home behind.’

    “In Mary and Joseph’s footsteps, he said, ‘so many other footsteps are hidden.’

    “ ‘We see the footsteps of entire families forced to set out in our own day. We see the footsteps of millions of people who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones,’ he said.”

    Mary and Joseph traveled from one part of Herod’s Kingdom to another, all within the Roman empire. This was a government ordered move which would result in a short visit to their ancestor’s city and a return to the city they had been living in. Because of the census many people were traveling. As Bethlehem was David’s city, all of David’s descendants were headed there. It’s not unreasonable to suppose they joined up with a group of people, a caravan, headed that way. The trip was about the same distance as from the Cathedral to St. Cloud, 60 – 80 miles.

    “Uncertainties and dangers?” Sure, I suppose anything could happen, maybe a meteor strike or the plague, but there was a caravan route from Nazareth to Bethlehem running through Roman territory with a Roman military camp in Jerusalem which was along the caravan route.

    “Leave their home behind?” “Leave behind their dear ones?” They left Bethlehem almost immediately and started home. By no later than the fortieth day after birth they were back in Jerusalem at the temple. Shortly after that they were back in Nazareth.

    What this has to do with modern “refugees” is beyond me.