POPE FRANCIS’ REFLECTION HOMILY ON THE 2ND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 2 January 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
Today’s Liturgy offers us a beautiful phrase, that we always pray in the Angelus and which by itself reveals to us the meaning of Christmas. It says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These words, if we think about it, contain a paradox. They bring together two opposites: the Word and the flesh. “Word” indicates that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father, infinite, existing from all time, before all created things; “flesh”, on the other hand, indicates precisely our created reality, fragile, limited, mortal. Before Jesus there were two separate worlds: Heaven opposed to earth, the infinite opposed to the finite, spirit opposed to matter. And there is another opposition in the Prologue of the Gospel of John, another binomial: word and flesh are a binomial; the other binomial is light and darkness (cf. v. 5). Jesus is the light of God who has entered into the darkness of the world. Light and darkness. God is light: in him there is no opacity; in us, on the other hand, there is much darkness. Now, with Jesus, light and darkness meet: holiness and sin, grace and sin. Jesus, the incarnation of Jesus is the very place of the encounter, the encounter between God and humanity, the encounter between grace and sin.
What does the Gospel intend to announce with these polarities? Something splendid: God’s way of acting. Faced with our frailties, the Lord does not withdraw. He does not remain in his blessed eternity and in his infinite light, but rather he draws close, he makes himself incarnate, he descends into the darkness, he dwells in lands that are foreign to him. And why does God do this? Why does he come down to us? He does this because he does not resign himself to the fact that we can go astray by going far from him, far from eternity, far from the light. This is God’s work: to come among us. If we consider ourselves unworthy, that does not stop him: he comes. If we reject him, He does not tire of seeking us out. If we are not ready and willing to receive him, he prefers to come anyway. And if we close the door in his face, he waits. He is truly the Good Shepherd. And the most beautiful image of the Good Shepherd? The Word that becomes flesh to share in our life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who comes to seek us right where we are: in our problems, in our suffering… He comes there.
Dear brothers and sisters, often we keep our distance from God because we think we are not worthy of him for other reasons. And it is true. But Christmas invites us to see things from his point of view. God wishes to be incarnate. If your heart seems too contaminated by evil, if it seems disordered, please, do not close yourself up, do not be afraid: he will come. Think of the stable in Bethlehem. Jesus was born there, in that poverty, to tell us that he is certainly not afraid of visiting your heart, of dwelling in a shabby life. And this is the word: to dwell. To dwell is the verb used in today’s Gospel to signify this reality: it expresses a total sharing, a great intimacy. And this is what God wants: he wants to dwell with us, he wants to dwell in us, not to remain distant.
And I ask myself, you, all of us: what about us, do we want to make space for him? In words yes, no-one will say, “I don’t!”; yes. But in practice? Perhaps there are aspects of life we keep to ourselves, that are exclusive, or inner spaces that we are afraid the Gospel will enter into, where we do not want God to be involved. Today I invite you to be specific. What are the inner things that I believe God does not like? What is the space that I believe is only for me, where I do not want God to come? Let each of us be specific, and answer this. “Yes, yes, I would like Jesus to come, but this, he mustn’t touch it; and this, no, and this…”. Everyone has their own sin – let us call it by name. And He is not afraid of our sins: He came to heal us. Let us at least let Him see it, let Him see the sin. Let us be brave, let us say: “But, Lord, I am in this situation but I do not want to change. But you, please, don’t go too far away”. That’s a good prayer. Let’s be sincere today.
In these days of Christmas, it will do us good to welcome the Lord precisely there. How? For example, by stopping in front of the Nativity scene, because it shows Jesus who came to dwell in all our real, ordinary life, where not everything goes well, where there are many problems: we are to blame for some of them; others are the fault of other people. And Jesus comes: the shepherds who work hard, we see the shepherds there, Herod who threatens the innocent, great poverty… But in the midst of all this, in the midst of so many problems – and even in the midst of our problems – there is God, there is God who wants to dwell with us. And he waits for us to present to him our situations, what we are living. So, before the Nativity, let us talk to Jesus about our real situations. Let us invite him officially into our lives, especially in the dark areas: “Look, Lord, there is no light there, the electricity doesn’t reach there, but please don’t touch, because I don’t feel like leaving this situation”. Speak clearly and plainly. The dark areas, our “inner stables”; each one of us has them. And let us also tell him, without fear, about the social problems, and the ecclesial problems of our time, even personal problems, even the worst, because God loves to dwell: in our stable.
May the Mother of God, in whom the Word was made flesh, help us to cultivate greater intimacy with the Lord.
POPE FRANCIS’ 2021 REFLECTION ON THE 2ND SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS.
3 January 2021
Dear brothers and sisters, good afternoon!
On this second Sunday after Christmas, the Word of God does not offer us an episode from the life of Jesus, but rather it tells us about Him before He was born. It takes us back to reveal something about Jesus before He came among us. It does so especially in the prologue of the Gospel of John, which begins: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). In the beginning: are the first words of the Bible, the same words with which the creation account begins: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). Today, the Gospel says that Jesus, the One we contemplated at His Birth, as an infant, existed before: before things began, before the universe, before everything. He existed before space and time. “In Him was life” (Jn 1:4), before life appeared.
Saint John calls Him the Logos, that is, the Word. What does he mean by this? The word is used to communicate: people do not speak alone, people speak with someone. One always speaks with someone. When we are in the street and we see people who talk to themselves, we say, “This person, something has happened to them…”. No, we always speak to someone. Now, the fact that Jesus was the Word from the very beginning means that from the beginning God wants to communicate with us, He wants to talk to us. The only-begotten Son of the Father (see v. 14) wants to tell us about the beauty of being children of God; He is “the true light” (v. 9) and wants to remove the darkness of evil from us; He is “the life” (v. 4), who knows our lives and wants to tell us that He has always loved them. He loves us all. Here is today’s wondrous message: Jesus is God’s Word, the eternal Word of God, who has always thought of us and wanted to communicate with us.
And to do so, He went beyond words. In fact, at the heart of today’s Gospel we are told that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (v. 14). The Word became flesh: why does Saint John use this expression “flesh”? Could he not have said, in a more elegant way, that the Word was made man? No, he uses the word flesh because it indicates our human condition in all its weakness, in all its frailty. He tells us that God became fragile so He could touch our fragility up close. So, from the moment that the Lord became flesh, nothing about our life is extraneous to Him. There is nothing that He scorns, we can share everything with Him, everything. Dear brother, dear sister, God became flesh to tell us, to tell you that He loves us like that, in our frailty, in your frailty; right there, where we are most ashamed, where you are most ashamed. This is bold, God’s decision is bold: He took on flesh precisely where very often we are ashamed; He enters into our shame, to become our brother, to share the path of life.
He became flesh and never turned back. He did not put our humanity on like a garment that can be put on and taken off. No, ; we might say that He “espoused” Himself to it. I like to thing that when the Lord prays to the Father for us, He does not merely speak: He makes Him see the wounds of the flesh, He makes Him see the wounds He suffered for us. This is Jesus: with His flesh He is the intercessor, he wanted to bear even the signs of suffering. Jesus, with His flesh, is in front of the Father. Indeed, the Gospel says that He came to dwell among us. He did not come to visit us, and then leave; He came to dwell with us, to stay with us. What, then, does He desire from us? He desires a great intimacy. He wants us to share with Him our joys and sufferings, desires and fears, hopes and sorrows, people and situations. Let us do this, with confidence: let us open our hearts to Him, let us tell Him everything. Let us pause in silence before the crib to savour the tenderness of God who became near, who became flesh. And without fear, let us invite Him among us, into our homes, into our families. And also – everyone knows this well – let us invite Him into our frailties. Let us invite Him, so that He may see our wounds. He will come and life will change.
May the Holy Mother of God, in whom the Word became flesh, help us to welcome Jesus, who knocks on the door of our hearts to dwell with us.
5 January 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!
On this second Sunday of the Christmas Season, the Bible Readings help us to widen our gaze to become fully aware of the meaning of the birth of Jesus.
With the Prologue of Saint John, the Gospel shows us the staggering novelty: the eternal Word, the Son of God, “became flesh” (v. 14). Not only did he come to dwell among the people, but he also made himself one of the people, one of us! After this event, we no longer have only one law, one institution, by which to orient ourselves, but a Person, a divine Person, Jesus, who guides our lives, he urges us to walk on the path because he did so before us.
Saint Paul blesses God for his design of love realized in Jesus Christ (cf. Eph 1:3-6, 15-18). In this plan each of us finds his/her own fundamental vocation. What is it? Paul says: we are predestined to be God’s children through the merit of Jesus Christ. The Son of God became man for us, men and women, children of God. Jesus became flesh for this: to introduce us into his filial relationship with the Father.
Thus, brothers and sisters, as we continue to contemplate the wondrous sign of the Crèche, today’s liturgy tells us that the Gospel of Christ is not a fairytale, it is not a myth, an edifying story, no. The Gospel of Christ is the full revelation of God’s design, of God’s plan for mankind and the world. It is a message that is, at once, both simple and grand that spurs us to ask ourselves: what concrete plan has God set aside for me, in renewing his birth among us?
The Apostle Paul suggests the answer: God “chose us … that we should be holy and blameless before him” (v. 4). This is the meaning of Christmas. If the Lord continues to come among us, if he continues to offer us the gift of his Word, it is so that each of us may answer this call: to become holy in love. Holiness is belonging to God. It means communion with him, the transparency of his infinite kindness. Holiness is to safeguard the gift that God has given to us. Only this: to safeguard the spontaneous gift. This is what being holy means. Thus, those who welcome holiness within themselves as a gift, a grace, cannot but translate it into concrete daily action. I convert this gift, this grace that God has given me, into practical action in daily life, in the encounter with others. At the same time, this charity, this mercy towards the other, a reflection of God’s love, purifies our heart and makes us willing to forgive, making us “immaculate” day by day. But not immaculate in the sense of removing a stain: immaculate in the sense that God enters within us, God’s spontaneous gift enters us and we safeguard it and give it to others.
May the Virgin Mary help us to receive with joy and gratitude the divine design of God, achieved in Jesus Christ.
On this First Sunday of the year, I renew to all my wishes of serenity and peace in the Lord. In happy and in difficult times, let us entrust ourselves to the One who is our hope! Let us remember the commitment we made on New Year’s Day, World Day of Peace: “Peace as a journey of hope: dialogue, reconciliation and ecological conversion”. By the Grace of God, we will be able to put it into practice.
I wish you all a Happy Sunday. And please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. See you tomorrow on the Solemnity of the Epiphany.
© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
3 January 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Sunday!
The Liturgy today, the Second Sunday after Christmas, presents us the Prologue of the Gospel of St John, in which it is proclaimed that “the Word” — that is, the creative Word of God — “became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). In other words, that Word, which dwells in heaven in the dimension of God, came upon the earth so that we should hear it and we could know and physically touch the Love of the Father. The Word of God is his Only Begotten Son, having become man, full of love and devotion (cf. Jn 1:14); it is Jesus himself.
The Evangelist does not hide the dramatic nature of the Incarnation of the Son of God, emphasizing that the gift of God’s love is marked by mankind’s failure to receive it. The Word is the light, yet mankind preferred darkness; the Word came among his own, but they received him not (cf. vv. 9-10). They closed the door in the face of God’s Son. It is the mystery of evil that undermines our life too, and it requires vigilance and attention on our part so that it does not prevail. The Book of Genesis offers a nice phrase that lets us understand this: it says that sin is “couching at the door” (cf. 4:7). Woe to us should we let it enter; lest sin would close our door to anyone else. Instead we are called to open wide the door of our heart to the Word of God, to Jesus, in order to become his children in this way.
On Christmas Day this solemn beginning of the Gospel of John was proclaimed; today it is offered to us once again. It is the invitation of the Holy Mother Church to welcome this Word of salvation, this mystery of light. If we welcome him, if we welcome Jesus, we will grow in the knowledge and the love of the Lord, we will learn to be merciful like him. Particularly in this Holy Year of Mercy, let us allow the Gospel to become ever more incarnate in our lives as well. Approaching the Gospel, contemplating it, and embodying it in daily life is the best way to come to know Jesus and to bring him to others. This is the vocation and the joy of every baptized person: to reveal and give Jesus to others; but in order to do this we must know him and bear him within us, as the Lord of our life. He protects us from the evil one, from the devil, who is always lurking at our door, at our heart, and wants to get in.
With a renewed impetus of filial abandon, let us entrust ourselves once again to Mary: may we contemplate her gentle image as the Mother of Jesus and our Mother in the nativity scene during these days.
5 January 2014
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Once again, the Liturgy this Sunday sets before us, in the Prologue of the Gospel of St John, the most profound significance of the Birth of Jesus. He is the Word of God who became man and pitched his “tent”, his dwelling, among men. The Evangelist writes: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). These words, that never cease to amaze us, contain the whole of Christianity! God became mortal, fragile like us, he shared in our human condition, except for sin, but he took ours upon himself, as though they were his own. He entered into our history, he became fully God-with-us! The birth of Jesus, then, shows us that God wanted to unite himself to every man and every woman, to every one of us, to communicate to us his life and his joy.
Thus, God is God-with-us, God who loves us, God who walks with us. This is the message of Christmas: the Word became flesh. Thus, Christmas reveals to us the immense love that God has for humanity. From this too derives our enthusiasm, our hope as Christians, that in our poverty we may know that we are loved, that we have been visited, that we are accompanied by God; and we look upon the world and on history as a place in which we walk together with Him and among us toward a new heaven and a new earth. With the Birth of Jesus, a new promise is born, a new world comes into being, but also a world that can be ever renewed. God is always present to stir up new men, to purify the world of the sin that makes it grow old, from the sin that corrupts it. However much human history and the personal story of each of us may be marked by difficulty and weakness, faith in the Incarnation tells us that God is in solidarity with mankind and with human history. This closeness of God to man, to every man and woman, to each one of us, is a gift that never fades! He is with us! He is God-with-us! Behold the glad tidings of Christmas: the divine light that filled the hearts of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph, and guided the footsteps of the shepherds and the Magi, shines today too for us.
In the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God there is also an aspect that is connected to human freedom, to the freedom of each one of us. Indeed, the Word of God pitched his tent among us, sinners who are in need of mercy. And we all must hasten to receive the grace that he offers us. Instead, the Gospel of St John continues, “his own people received him not” (v. 11). We reject him too many times, we prefer to remain closed in our errors and the anxiety of our sins. But Jesus does not desist and never ceases to offer himself and his grace which saves us! Jesus is patient, Jesus knows how to wait, he waits for us always. This is a message of hope, a message of salvation, ancient and ever new. And we are called to witness with joy to this message of the Gospel of life, to the Gospel of light, of hope and of love. For Jesus’ message is this: life, light, hope and love.
May Mary, the Mother of God and our tender Mother, support us always, that we may remain faithful to our Christian vocation and be able to realize the aspiration for justice and peace that we carry within us at the start of this new year.