In his Christmas homily, Pope Francis asked Christians to contemplate that God did not choose to come into the world in grandeur, but as a humble child born into poverty.
“Brothers and sisters, standing before the crib, we contemplate what is central, beyond all the lights and decorations ... We contemplate the child. In his littleness, God is completely present,” Pope Francis said on Dec. 24.
“Let us be amazed by this scandalous truth. The One who embraces the universe needs to be held in another’s arms. … Infinite love has a miniscule heart that beats softly,” the pope said.
Pope Francis offered Mass for the Nativity of the Lord in St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve.
The Mass began with a cantor chanting the traditional Kalenda Proclamation of the Birth of Christ from the Roman Martyrology. The pope then bowed to kiss a figure of the Christ child as bells rang out from the basilica.
“Today, all is turned upside down: God comes into the world in littleness. His grandeur appears in littleness,” Pope Francis said in his homily.
“This is the challenge of Christmas: God reveals himself, but men and women fail to understand. … God lowers himself and we try to become great,” he said.
“Jesus is born in order to serve, and we spend a lifetime pursuing success. God does not seek power and might; he asks for tender love and interior littleness.”
Pope Francis urged people to stop pining for grandeur and to put aside complaints and greed this Christmas.
“This is what we should ask Jesus for at Christmas: the grace of littleness,” he said. “Lord, teach us to love littleness. Help us to understand that littleness is the way to authentic greatness.”
The pope said that “God desires to come into the little things of our life.”
“Amid our ordinary lived experience, he wants to do extraordinary things. His is a message of immense hope. Jesus asks us to rediscover and value the little things in life,” he said. “If he is present there, what else do we need?”
And Jesus does not only want to come in the little details of our lives, but also into our experience of weakness and inadequacy, the pope said.
“Dear sister or brother, if, as in Bethlehem, the darkness of night overwhelms you, if you feel surrounded by cold indifference, if the hurt you carry inside cries out, ‘You are of little account; you are worthless; you will never be loved the way you want,’ tonight God answers back,” Francis said.
“Tonight he tells you: ‘I love you just as you are. Your littleness does not frighten me, your failings do not trouble me. I became little for your sake. To be your God, I became your brother. Dear brother, dear sister, don’t be afraid of me. Find in me your measure of greatness. I am close to you, and one thing only do I ask: trust me and open your heart to me.’”
During the Mass, the choir sang traditional Christmas carols, including The First Noel, Silent Night, and O Come All Ye Faithful.
About 1,500 people were present in the basilica for the Mass, according to the Vatican.
In his homily, Pope Francis quoted a poem by Emily Dickinson: “‘Who has not found the Heaven – below – Will fail of it above.’”
“Let us not lose sight of heaven," he said. "Let us care for Jesus now, caressing him in the needy, because in them he makes himself known."
Jesus, who was born into poverty, wants to be honored by service to the poor, the pope said.
(Story continues below)
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“On this night of love, may we have only one fear: that of offending God’s love, hurting him by despising the poor with our indifference. Jesus loves them dearly, and one day they will welcome us to heaven,” he said.
Pope Francis highlighted how the rich and poor came together at Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, where Magi and shepherds together adored the Lord.
“Everything is unified when Jesus is at the center: not our ideas about Jesus, but Jesus himself, the living One,” he said.
“So then, dear brothers and sisters, let us return to Bethlehem, let us return to the origins: to the essentials of faith, to our first love, to adoration and charity. Let us look at the Magi who make their pilgrim way, and as a synodal Church, a journeying Church, let us go to Bethlehem, where God is in man and man in God,” the pope said.
“Let us rouse ourselves, for tonight a light has been lit, a kindly light, reminding us that, in our littleness, we are beloved sons and daughters, children of the light. Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice together, for no one will ever extinguish this light, the light of Jesus, who tonight shines brightly in our world,” he said.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
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