Christmas

Pope Francis             03.12.18 Holy Mass Santa Marta     Matthew 8: 5-11
https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope-francis/mass-casa-santa-marta/2018-12/pope-francis-homily-daily-mass-advent-purifying-faith.html

Advent, which began on Sunday, is a good time for purifying the spirit, for making the faith grow with this purification. Even today, it can happen that faith can become a habit for us; we can get used to it, forgetting its “liveliness.” When the faith becomes a habit, we lose that strength of the faith, that newness of the faith that is always renewed.

The first dimension of Advent is the past, “the purification of memory”: We have to remember that Christmas is not about the birth of a Christmas tree, but about the birth of Jesus Christ.

The Lord is born, the Redeemer who has come to save us. Yes, it is a celebration…but we always face the danger, we will always have within us the temptation to make Christmas mundane, worldly… When the celebration stops being about contemplation—a beautiful family celebration with Jesus at the centre—it begins to be a worldly celebration: all about shopping, presents, this and that… and the Lord remains there, forgotten. Even in our own life: yes, He is born, at Bethlehem, but then what?… Advent is a time for purifying the memory of this time past, of that dimension.

Advent also serves to purify hope, preparing us for the definitive encounter with the Lord.

Because the Lord who came then will return! He will return! He will return to ask us: “How did your life go?” It will be a personal encounter. We have a personal encounter with the Lord, today, in the Eucharist; we cannot have such a personal with the Christmas of 2000 years ago: we have the memorial of that. But when He will return, we will have that personal encounter. It is purifying hope.

I invite everyone to cultivate the daily dimension of the faith, despite so many cares and worries, taking custody of our own interior home. Our God, in fact, is the God of surprises, and Christians must constantly discern what the heavenly Father is saying to us today.

The third dimension is more daily: purifying our watchfulness. Vigilance and prayer are two words for Advent: Because historically the Lord came in Bethlehem; and He will come, at the end of the world and also at the end of our individual lives. But every day, every moment, He comes into our hearts, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.


https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-12/pope-francis-christmas-mass-at-night-bethlehem.html

The location of Jesus’ birth marks a turning point in the course of history.

Bethlehem means “house of bread”, and that Mary laid Jesus in a manger. It is as if he wanted to say: ‘Here I am, as your food.

Jesus gives us his very self, teaching us to live our lives in a new way: “not by devouring and hoarding, but by sharing and giving.” We feed on Jesus, the bread of life, and are reborn in love, breaking the vicious cycle of grasping and greed.

In Scripture, humanity’s original sin was to take and eat a forbidden food. Mankind became greedy and voracious. Even today, a few people often eat splendid meals while a great many others go without even enough bread to survive.

Standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity.

Jesus knows we need to be fed daily, so he offered himself every day of his life. Today too, on the altar, he becomes bread broken for us; he knocks at our door, to enter and eat with us.

If we welcome God into our hearts and allow Him to dwell there, history changes. For once Jesus dwells in our heart, the centre of life is no longer my ravenous and selfish ego, but the One who is born and lives for love.

Jesus invites us at Christmas to rise quickly from the table and to serve others, sharing our bread with those who have none.

Bethlehem is also called the “city of David”. Before becoming king, David was a shepherd whom God chose to shepherd and lead His people.

On Christmas night, shepherds welcomed Jesus in the world. An angel appeared and said to them: “Be not afraid.” We hear that phrase so often in the Gospels because God knows we are afraid due to our sin.

Bethlehem is the remedy for this fear, because despite man’s repeated ‘no’, God constantly says ‘yes’. He will always be God-with-us.” God, makes Himself a little child so as not to frighten us.

The shepherds were not sleeping when the angel came; they were keeping watch. Our life can either be marked by waiting or by wanting. If we await the Lord amid the gloom of our problems we will receive his life.

But if we only spend our lives in selfish want, where all that matters are our own strengths and abilities our heart then remains barred to God’s light.

The shepherds set out immediately and take a risk for God by leaving their flocks unguarded. After seeing Jesus, they go off to proclaim his birth. To keep watch, to set out, to risk, to recount the beauty: all these are acts of love,

At Christmas, we all want to go up to Bethlehem. Today too, the road is uphill: the heights of our selfishness need to be surmounted, and we must not lose our footing or slide into worldliness and consumerism.

So we entrust ourselves to the Lord, “Take me upon your shoulders, Good Shepherd; loved by you, I will be able to love my brothers and sisters and to take them by the hand."