During his Christmas Eve message and the Urbi et Orbi blessing on Monday, Pope Francis highlighted the stark contrast between the message of peace heralded by the birth of Christ and the ongoing conflicts in the Holy Land and beyond.
“Our hearts are in Bethlehem, where the Prince of Peace is once more rejected by the futile logic of war, by the clash of arms that even today prevents Him from finding room in the world,” Pope Francis said during his homily on the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
Let us look, then, to the “living and true God,” Pope Francis said. “The God who revolutionizes history by becoming a part of history. The God who so respects us as to allow us to reject him; who takes away sin by taking it upon himself; who does not eliminate pain but transforms it; who does not remove problems from our lives but grants us a hope that is greater than all our problems.”
Let us look, then, to the God who “so greatly desires to embrace our lives that, infinite though he is, he becomes finite for our sake. In his greatness, he chooses to become small; in his righteousness, he submits to our injustice.”
And this, Pope Francis argued, is the wonder of Christmas: “Not a mixture of sappy emotions and worldly contentment, but the unprecedented tenderness of a God who saves the world by becoming incarnate. Let us contemplate the Child, let us contemplate the manger, his crib, which the angels call a sign for us. For it truly is the sign that reveals God’s face, a face of compassion and mercy, whose might is shown always and only in love. He makes himself close, tender and compassionate, for this is God’s style: closeness, compassion, tenderness.”
And we, too, are called to imitate His style, with closeness, compassion, and tenderness towards those in need. Do we pray for them? Do we volunteer our time? Do we generously share the gifts God has given us?
“Dear brother, dear sister, to God, who changed history in the course of a census, you are not a number; instead you are a face. Your name is written on his heart. But if you look to your own heart, and think of your own inadequacies and this world that is so judgmental and unforgiving, you may feel it difficult to celebrate this Christmas. You may think things are going badly, or feel dissatisfied with your limitations, failings, problems and sins. Today, though, please, let Jesus take the initiative,” Pope Francis said.
Urbi et Orbi
On Christmas Day, in his Urbi et Orbi address, dedicated to the City of Rome and to the world, the pontiff again called for peace and compassion in regions embroiled by conflict, underscoring a stark contrast with the humble beginnings of Jesus in Bethlehem. As popes have historically done on this occasion, the Holy Father listed many of his concerns, asking us to pray for peace, for those who suffer injustice, those who are slaughtered in their mother’s wombs, and all those to whom, “from the manger, the Child Jesus” asks us all to be the voice of:
- How many innocents are being slaughtered in our world! In their mothers’ wombs, in odysseys undertaken in desperation and in search of hope, in the lives of all those little ones whose childhood has been devastated by war. They are the little Jesuses of today, these little ones whose childhood has been devastated by war.
- To say “yes” to the Prince of Peace, then, means saying “no” to war, to every war and to do so with courage, to the very mindset of war, an aimless voyage, a defeat without victors, an inexcusable folly.
- May [peace come to] Israel and Palestine, where war is devastating the lives of those peoples. I embrace them all, particularly the Christian communities of Gaza, the parish of Gaza, and the entire Holy Land.
- My thoughts turn likewise to the people of war-torn Syria, and to those of long-suffering Yemen. I think too of the beloved Lebanese people, and I pray that political and social stability will soon be attained.
- Contemplating the Baby Jesus, I implore peace for Ukraine. Let us renew our spiritual and human closeness to its embattled people, so that through the support of each of us, they may feel the concrete reality of God’s love.
- May the day of definitive peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan draw near. May it be advanced by the pursuit of humanitarian initiatives, by the return of refugees to their homes in legality and security, and by reciprocal respect for religious traditions and the places of worship of each community.
- Let us not forget the tensions and conflicts that trouble the region of the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and Sudan, as well as Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.
- May the day draw near when fraternal bonds will be consolidated on the Korean peninsula by undertaking processes of dialogue and reconciliation capable of creating the conditions for lasting peace.
- May the Son of God, who became a lowly Child, inspire political authorities and all persons of good will in the Americas to devise suitable ways to resolve social and political conflicts, to combat forms of poverty that offend the dignity of persons, to reduce inequality and to address the troubling phenomenon of migration movements.
“From the manger, the Child Jesus asks us to be the voice of those who have no voice. The voice of the innocent children who have died for lack of bread and water; the voice of those who cannot find work or who have lost their jobs; the voice of those forced to flee their lands in search of a better future, risking their lives in grueling journeys and prey to unscrupulous traffickers,” Pope Francis said, before imparting his blessing.
Can you help us be the voice of those who suffer? Can you help missionaries bring the joy of the manger there where Christ’s birth is unknown, has been forgotten or shunned, and to where He is persecuted?
I can give a voice to those who suffer now
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