Vatican City, Dec 24, 2014 / 02:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The birth of Jesus – a light that shattered the world's darkness on Christmas night – witnesses to God's love for mankind amid a history marked by “violence, wars, hatred and oppression,” Pope Francis said.
“Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption,” he emphasized. “This is the message of Christmas night.”
This theme of Christ's light defeating the darkness of sin on Christmas, rooted in God's patience, closeness, and tenderness towards his creatures, was at the center of Pope Francis' homily during evening Mass on Dec. 24 at the Vatican.
Before the liturgy began in Saint Peter's Basilica, there was the chanting of “Kalenda” – a traditional chant recounting the events leading up to Christ’s birth. After this, the Holy Father unveiled and prayed before a small statue of the Child Jesus which laid in front of the main altar above St. Peter’s tomb. The statue, which itself rested upon a stand holding the Scriptures as a symbol of the Word Made Flesh, was then venerated with flowers by a group of children, one from Syria, representing all corners of the world.
Reflecting on the readings for Christmas night following the chanting of the Gospel, Pope Francis in his homily recalled Isaiah's prophecy of Christ's birth as “the rising of a great light which breaks through the night.” As recounted in the Gospel, the “sign” given to the shepherds by the angels was that of “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
This “sign,” the Pope said, “is the humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires and our limitations.”
In the liturgy of Christmas night, Pope Francis said, the Savior's birth is presented as “the light which pierces and dispels the deepest darkness,” his presence canceling “the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery,” and ushering “in joy and happiness.”
In turn, having entered God’s house, we too have “passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of finding the ‘great light’.”
“By opening our hearts, we also can contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high, illuminates the horizon.”
Pope Francis recalled the “violence, wars, hatred and oppression” which unfolded following Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, recounted in Genesis chapter four.
Notwithstanding this history marked by violence and conflict, “God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made in his image and likeness, was waiting,” and “continued to wait patiently in the face of the corruption of man and peoples.”
“Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas night.”
The birth of Christ, he said, gives rise to the way in which we reflect on the tenderness of God “who looks upon us with eyes full of love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.”
“How do we welcome the tenderness of God?” he asked. Rather than merely seeking God, we should ask whether we allow ourselves to be found, and loved, by God.
“Do we have the courage,” the Pope continued, “to welcome with tenderness the difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today!
“The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our smallness,” he said. Rather, “when we realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our hearts to him.”
In this light, Pope Francis called on the faithful to pray for “the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life,” and “of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in every conflict”.
Turning once again to the reading from Isaiah – “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” – the Holy Father said this light was not seen by the arrogant and proud. Such persons “made laws according to their own personal measures,” and “were closed off to others.”
However, Pope Francis added, the light was seen by those “unassuming,” and “open to receiving the gift of God.”
He concluded his homily by calling on the faithful to pray to the Blessed Mother, asking her to “show us Jesus!”
After the Mass, Pope Francis processed through the basilica carrying the statue of Jesus and placing it in the indoor nativity scene.
Vatican City, Dec 24, 2014 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis issued a strong message to members of the curia this week, warning them against careerism and urging them to live the reality of the priesthood – as servants.
“Sometimes,” the Pope said Dec. 22, curia members “feel themselves 'lords of the manor' – superior to everyone and everything,” forgetting that their lives should be rooted in humility and generosity.
The pontiff made his remarks Monday during a traditional exchange of Christmas greetings with Vatican officials. During his message, he delved quickly into listing out the numerous signs of “sickness” in the curia and what impedes its ability to service the wider mission of the Church.
Number one, he said, is the “sickness of considering oneself 'immortal', 'immune' or 'indispensable', neglecting the necessary and habitual controls.”
“A curia that is not self-critical, that does not stay up-to-date, that does not seek to better itself, is an ailing body…It is the sickness of the rich fool who thinks he will live for all eternity, and of those who transform themselves into masters and believe themselves superior to others, rather than at their service.”
The second sign of sickness, he said, is “'Martha-ism', or excessive industriousness; the sickness of those who immerse themselves in work, inevitably neglecting 'the better part' of sitting at Jesus' feet.”
“Therefore, Jesus required his disciples to rest a little, as neglecting the necessary rest leads to stress and agitation. Rest, once one who has brought his or her mission to a close, is a necessary duty and must be taken seriously: in spending a little time with relatives and respecting the holidays as a time for spiritual and physical replenishment, it is necessary to learn the teaching of Ecclesiastes, that 'there is a time for everything.'”
Number three is: “the sickness of mental and spiritual hardening: that of those who, along the way, lose their inner serenity, vivacity and boldness and conceal themselves behind paper, becoming working machines rather than men of God…It is dangerous to lose the human sensibility necessary to be able to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice! It is the sickness of those who lose those sentiments that were present in Jesus Christ.”
Another is the “ailment of excessive planning and functionalism: this is when the apostle plans everything in detail and believes that, by perfect planning things effectively progress, thus becoming a sort of accountant…One falls prey to this sickness because it is easier and more convenient to settle into static and unchanging positions. Indeed, the Church shows herself to be faithful to the Holy Spirit to the extent that she does not seek to regulate or domesticate it. The Spirit is freshness, imagination and innovation.”
There is also the “sickness of poor coordination develops when the communion between members is lost, and the body loses its harmonious functionality and its temperance, becoming an orchestra of cacophony because the members do not collaborate and do not work with a spirit of communion or as a team.”
“Spiritual Alzheimer's disease, or rather forgetfulness of the history of Salvation, of the personal history with the Lord, of the 'first love': this is a progressive decline of spiritual faculties, that over a period of time causes serious handicaps, making one incapable of carrying out certain activities autonomously, living in a state of absolute dependence on one's own often imaginary views. We see this is those who have lost their recollection of their encounter with the Lord…in those who build walls around themselves and who increasingly transform into slaves to the idols they have sculpted with their own hands.”
And still another is the “ailment of rivalry and vainglory: when appearances, the color of one's robes, insignia and honors become the most important aim in life…It is the disorder that leads us to become false men and women, living a false 'mysticism' and a false 'quietism.'”
There is also the sickness of “existential schizophrenia: the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of the hypocrisy typical of the mediocre and the progressive spiritual emptiness that cannot be filled by degrees or academic honors.”
“This ailment particularly afflicts those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic matters, thus losing contact with reality and with real people. They create a parallel world of their own, where they set aside everything they teach with severity to others and live a hidden, often dissolute life.”
And then there is the sickness of “chatter, grumbling and gossip: this is a serious illness that begins simply, often just in the form of having a chat, and takes people over, turning them into sowers of discord, like Satan, and in many cases cold-blooded murderers of the reputations of their colleagues and brethren. It is the sickness of the cowardly who, not having the courage to speak directly to the people involved, instead speak behind their backs.”
“The sickness of deifying leaders is typical of those who court their superiors, with the hope of receiving their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, honouring people rather than God. They are people who experience service thinking only of what they might obtain and not of what they should give. They are mean, unhappy and inspired only by their fatal selfishness.”
“The disease of indifference towards others arises when each person thinks only of himself, and loses the sincerity and warmth of personal relationships,” he added. “When the most expert does not put his knowledge to the service of less expert colleagues; when out of jealousy…one experiences joy in seeing another person instead of lifting him up or encouraging him.”
“The illness of the funereal face: or rather, that of the gruff and the grim, those who believe that in order to be serious it is necessary to paint their faces with melancholy and severity, and to treat others – especially those they consider inferior – with rigidity, hardness and arrogance. In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity.”
Still another is the “disease of accumulation: when the apostle seeks to fill an existential emptiness of the heart by accumulating material goods, not out of necessity but simply to feel secure…Accumulation only burdens and inexorably slows down our progress.”
“The ailment of closed circles: when belonging to a group becomes stronger than belonging to the Body and, in some situations, to Christ Himself. This sickness too may start from good intentions but, as time passes, enslaves members and becomes a 'cancer' that threatens the harmony of the Body and causes a great deal of harm – scandals – especially to our littlest brothers.”
There is also “disease of worldly profit and exhibitionism: when the apostle transforms his service into power, and his power into goods to obtain worldly profits or more power. This is the disease of those who seek insatiably to multiply their power and are therefore capable of slandering, defaming and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally in order to brag and to show they are more capable than others.”
After his listing out the numerous sicknesses that threaten to infiltrate the mindset of curia members, Pope Francis stressed that they are “required” – especially during this time of Christmas – “to live 'speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.'”
“I once read that priests are like airplanes: they only make the news when they crash, but there are many that fly. Many criticize them and few pray for them,” he said.
“It is a very nice phrase, but also very true, as it expresses the importance and the delicacy of our priestly service, and how much harm just one priest who falls may cause to the whole body of the Church.”