Pope Francis: the heart of Christmas is hope

In his homily at Christmas Mass “During the Night” in St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope reflects on how, with the birth of Jesus, everything becomes a source of hope.

By Seàn-Patrick Lovett

The Christmas story is retold every year with all the places, people and themes we know so well: the stable, the shepherds, the birth. But perhaps the very familiarity of the story can distract us or cause us to forget the messages that lie at its heart.

The Christmas story today

Which is why Pope Francis chose to present the Christmas story in a way that all those familiar places, people and themes could be applied to the world of today and to the experience of every modern-day migrant and refugee. Hidden in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary, he said, we see those of entire families, “millions of people who do not choose to go away but, driven from their land, leave behind their dear ones.”

A source of hope

“In many cases”, said Pope Francis, “this departure is filled with hope, hope for the future; 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.” But it is the birth of Jesus, he said, that changes our history forever. With His birth everything becomes “a source of hope.”

Seeing where God is present

Pope Francis delivered his homily in a St Peter’s Basilica filled with pilgrims and visitors from all over the world, and with many listening and watching on the giant screens outside in the Square. Not to mention the millions of others connected via every means of communication available: from satellites to cell-phones. “The faith we proclaim tonight”, he said, “makes us see God present in all those situations where we think he is absent. He is present in the unwelcomed visitor, often unrecognizable, who walks through our cities and our neighbourhoods, who travels on our buses and knocks on our doors.”

A new social imagination

The Pope went on to invite us to make space for what he called “a new social imagination.” We must not be afraid of experiencing new forms of relationship, he said. “Christmas is a time for turning the power of fear into the power of charity, into power for a new imagination of charity, a charity that does not grow accustomed to injustice.”

Do not be afraid

Quoting St John Paul II, Pope Francis said: “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ”. In this Child, “God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this Child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.” The Pope’s final appeal to all of us this Christmas was that we shake off our indifference and see Jesus “in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives.”

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24 December 2017, 22:00