Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 2 January 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy offers us a beautiful phrase that we always pray in the Angelus and which, on its own, 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. If we think about it, these words contain a paradox. They bring together two opposing realities: the Word and the flesh. “Word” indicates that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father, an infinite Word, existing from all time, before all created things; “flesh”, on the other hand, indicates precisely our reality, a created, fragile, limited and mortal reality. 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 polarity in the Prologue of the Gospel of John, another pair: 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 guilt, grace and sin. Jesus, the incarnation of Jesus, is the very place of 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 flesh, 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 may lose our way, 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 [what is] 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, we often 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 untidy, 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. This is the word: to dwell. To dwell is the verb used in today’s Gospel to signify this reality: it expresses 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 and everyone: do we want to make room 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 in which we are afraid the Gospel will enter into, where we do not want God to be involved. Today I invite you to be concrete. What are the inner things that I believe God does not like? What is the space that I keep only for myself, where I do not want God to come? Let each of us be concrete, and answer this. “Yes, yes, I would like Jesus to come, but this, he must not touch; 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”. This a beautiful prayer. Let us be sincere today.
During 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. There we see the shepherds who work hard, 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. Let us talk to Jesus about our real situations, in front of the Nativity scene. Let us invite him officially into our lives, especially in the dark areas: “Look, Lord, there is no light there, the electricity does not reach there, but please do not touch, because I do not 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, the ecclesial problems of our time, our personal problems, even the worst ones, 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.
After the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:
Dear brothers and sisters, I address my heartfelt greeting to you all, faithful of Rome and pilgrims from Italy and from other countries: I see Polish, Brazilian, Uruguayan, Argentinian, Paraguayan, Colombian, and Venezuelan flags: welcome to you all! I greet the families, associations, and parish groups, especially those of Postioma and Porcellengo, in the diocese of Treviso, as well as the youth of the Regnum Christi Federation and the young people of the Immacolata.
On this first Sunday of the year, I renew the Lord’s blessings of peace and good to all of you. In joyful moments and in sad ones, let us entrust ourselves to him, he who is our strength and our hope. And do not forget: let us invite the Lord to come within us, to come to our reality, ugly as it may be, as if it were a stable: “Lord, I would not like you to enter, but look, and stay close”. Let us do this.
I wish you all a blessed Sunday. Enjoy your lunch. And do not forget to pray for me. Arrivederci!
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