God's Gratuitousness



Pope Francis        19.12.19   Holy Mass Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)      Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25a,    Luke 1: 5-25 
Thursday of the Third Week of Advent Year A

Pope Francis talks about God's Grace 19.12.19 at Santa Marta

The prophecy of Isaiah (35: 1-6), on the blooming of the desert, reminds Christians that God is capable of changing everything, gratuitously. God saves us for free, but we sin when we desire to save ourselves.

Today's readings puts us in front of two deserts, that is two barren women: Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Baptist in the Gospel, and the mother of Samson in the Old Testament.

In the Gospel Elizabeth's story also makes us think of the story of Abraham and Sara. Infertility is a desert because a sterile woman ends up there, without descendants. Both Sarah and Elizabeth are women of faith and trust in the Lord.

And the Lord makes the desert flourish. Both women conceive and give birth. "Father is this a miracle?" No, it is more than a miracle: it is the basis, it is precisely the foundation of our faith. Both conceive because God is capable of changing everything, even the laws of nature; is capable of making way for His Word. God's gifts are gratuitous. And the lives of both women are the expression of God's gratuitousness.

Both John the Baptist and Samson are God's gratuitousness, rather, they are the symbols, so to speak, of the gratuitousness of our salvation, because no one can save himself. The only one who saves is the Lord, the only one who can save us from our misery and brutality. And if you do not rely on the gratuitousness of the Lord's salvation, you will not be saved. But we must have faith, which is also a gift from God.

Let us all, in the words of St. Augustine, open our hearts to God’s gratuitousness.

None of us deserve salvation. Nobody! "But I pray, I fast..." Yes, this will do you good, but if there's no gratuitousness at the beginning of all of that, there's no chance. We're sterile. All of us. Sterile for the life of grace, sterile to go to heaven, sterile to conceive holiness. Only gratuitousness. And that's why we can't brag about being fair. "Father, I am Catholic, I am Catholic. I go to Mass on Sunday. I belong to this association, to this, to that one..." - "And tell me: are you buying your salvation like this? Do you think this will save you?" It will only help you to save yourself if you believe in the gratuitousness of God's gift. Everything is
grace.

For this reason all are called to worship the Lord and thank Him for so much grace.

Both of these women, then, gave birth to children who would be great in history. Samson, a great wrestler and strong man, who saved the people from the Philistines, but who perhaps did not care for the gratuitousness of the gift received from God. He made a mistake and fell into the hands of a woman who sold him to the Philistines. However, he recovered. We are all sinners and sin does not prevent this gratuitousness of God.

But, am I aware that sin does not prevent gratuitousness? And when I go to confession, what do I do? Do I say sins like a parrot or do I say them because I feel that I risked the gift of gratuitousness to have something of my own? Keep the gratuitousness and think of Samson: elected, good, who towards the end of his life had a slip, then recovered. But we can, we can slip and believe ourselves to be redeeming ourselves. That's sin. Sin is the desire to redeem ourselves. In these days before Christmas we praise the Lord for the gratuitousness of salvation, for the gratuitousness of life, for all that he gives us for free. Everything is grace.

Let us reflect on whether we keep this gratuitousness or put it at risk with our sins.





Pope Francis   24.12.19  Midnight Mass, Vatican Basilica    Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord Year A        Isaiah 9: 1-6,      Titus 2: 11-14     Luke 2: 1-14

Pope Francis 24.12.19 Midnight Mass Nativity of Jesus

"Upon those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness a light has shone"(Is 9:1). This prophecy of the first Reading was fulfilled in the Gospel: in fact, as the shepherds kept watch over their flocks at night, "the glory of the Lord shone around them"(Luke 2:9). In the midst of our earthly night a light appeared from heaven. What does this light that appeared in darkness mean? The Apostle Paul suggests this to us, who told us: "God's grace has appeared." The grace of God, who "brings salvation to all men"(Titus 2:11), has shone on our world tonight.

But what is this
grace? It is divine love, love that transforms life, renews history, frees from evil, instils peace and joy. Tonight the love of God has shown itself to us: it is Jesus. In Jesus the highest became small, to be loved by us. In Jesus God became a child, to be embraced by us. But, we can still ask ourselves, why does St. Paul call the coming into God's world "grace"? To tell us it's completely free. While here on earth everything seems to respond to the logic of giving to get, God comes free. His love is non-negotiable: we have done nothing to deserve it and we can never reward Him.

God's grace has appeared. Tonight we realize that, while we were not up to it, He made himself small for us; as we went about our own deeds, He came among us.
Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us. To me, to you, to each of us he says today: "I love you and I will always love you, you are precious in my eyes". God does not love you because you think right and behave well; he just loves you. His love is unconditional, it's not up to you. You may have misconceptions, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord does not give up loving you. How often do we think that God is good if we are good and that He punishes us if we are bad. It's not like that. In our sins, He continues to love us. His love does not change, He is not fickle; He's faithful, He's patient. This is the gift we find at Christmas: we discover with amazement that the Lord is absolute gratuity, absolute tender love. His glory does not dazzle us, His presence does not frighten us. He was born in utter poverty, to win our hearts with the wealth of His love.

God's grace has appeared. Grace is synonymous with beauty. Tonight, in the beauty of God's love, we also rediscover our beauty, because we are God's beloved. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, happy or sad, in his eyes we look beautiful: not for what we do, but for what we are. There is in us an indelible, intangible beauty, an irrepressible beauty that is the core of our being. Today God reminds us of this, lovingly taking our humanity and making it His own, marrying it forever.

Indeed, the great joy announced tonight to the shepherd is indeed for all the people. In those shepherds, who were certainly not saints, we are also there, with our frailties and weaknesses. As He called them, God also calls us, because He loves us. And, in the dark nights of life, He says to us as to them: "Do not be afraid"(Lc 2:10). Take courage, do not lose confidence, do not lose hope, do not think that loving is wasted time! Tonight love has overcome fear, a new hope has arrived, the gentle light of God has overcome the darkness of human arrogance. Humanity, God loves you and for your sake He became man, you are no longer alone!

Dear brothers and sisters, what are we to do with this grace? Only one thing: to accept the gift. Before we go in search of God, let us allow ourselves be sought by Him, who seeks us first. Let us not begin with our abilities, but with His grace, because He, Jesus, is the Saviour. Let us contemplate the Child and let ourselves be enveloped by His tenderness. We have no more excuses not to let ourselves be loved by Him: whatever goes wrong in life, whatever doesn't work in the Church, whatever problems there are in the world, will no longer serve as an excuse. It will become secondary
, because in the face of Jesus' extravagant love, a love utter meekness and closeness, there is no excuse. The question at Christmas is, "Do I let myself be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to His love that comes to save me?"

Such a great gift deserves so much gratitude. To accept this grace means being ready to give thanks in return. But often we live our lives with such little gratitude. Today is the right day to get closer to the tabernacle, the crib, the manger, to say thank you. Let us receive the gift that is Jesus, in order then to become a gift like Jesus. Becoming a gift is giving meaning to life. And it is the best way to change the world: we change, the Church changes, history changes when we stop trying to change others but try to change ourselves, making our lives a gift.

Jesus shows us this tonight: He did not change history by pressuring anyone or by the force of words, but with the gift of His life. He didn't wait for us to become good before He loved us, but He gave Himself freely to us. May we not wait for our neighbours to become good before we do good for them, for the Church to be perfect before we love her, for others to respect us before we serve them. Let's begin with ourselves. This is what it means freely to accept the gift of grace. And holiness is nothing more than to preserve this freedom.

A charming legend relates that at the birth of Jesus, the shepherds hurried to the stable with various gifts. Each one brought what he had, some brought the fruits of their own work, some brought something precious. But, as they were presenting their gift, there was one shepherd who had nothing. He was very poor, he had nothing to offer. As the others competed in to give their gifts, he stood on the side-lines, embarrassed. At one point St. Joseph and Our Lady found it hard to receive all the gifts, many, especially Mary, who was holding the Baby. Then, seeing that shepherd with empty hands, she asked him to come closer. And she put Jesus in his arms. That shepherd, in accepting Him, realized that he had received what he did not deserve, that he had in his arms the greatest gift in history. He looked at his hands, those hands that always seemed empty to him: they had become the cradle of God. He felt loved, and overcoming the embarrassment, he began to show Jesus to the others, because he could not keep for himself the gift of gifts.

Dear brother, dear sister, if your hands look empty to you, if you think your heart is poor in love, tonight is for you. God's grace has appeared to shine in your life. Embrace it and the light of Christmas shines in you.