Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis' address for today's General Audience in St. Peter's Square:
Pope Francis' Catechesis:
Brothers and sisters, good morning!
In these days of Christmas, we are placed before the Child Jesus. I am sure that in our homes still many families have set up their mangers, carrying on this fine tradition which dates back to St. Francis of Assisi and that keeps alive, in our hearts, the mystery of God Who becomes man.
The devotion to the Child Jesus is very widespread. Many saints have cultivated it in their daily prayer, and they wanted to model their lives on that of the Child Jesus. I am thinking in particular of Saint Theresa of Lisieux, who as a Carmelite nun took the name of Teresa of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She – who is also a Doctor of the Church – was able to live and witness to that '”spiritual childhood” which truly assimilates, in the school of the Virgin Mary, the humility of God who, for our sake, became a child. And this is a great mystery, God is humble! It is we who are proud, filled with vanity and we believe ourselves to be something great, [but] we are nothing! He, the great, is humble and is made a child. This is a real mystery! God is humble. This is beautiful!
There was a time when, in the divine-human person of Christ, God was a child, and this must have its own special meaning for our faith. It is true that His death on the Cross and His Resurrection are the ultimate expression of His redeeming love, but do not forget that all His earthly life is revelation and teaching. During the Christmas season, we remember His childhood. To grow in faith, we need to contemplate Baby Jesus more often. Certainly, we do not know anything much about this period. The few indications we possess refer to the imposition of the name eight days after His birth and the presentation in the Temple (cf. Lk 2.21 to 28); and also the visit of the Magi with the consequent flight into Egypt (cf. Mt 2.1 to 23). Then, there is a big jump up to when he is 12 years old, when Mary and Joseph go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover, and instead of returning with His parents in the Temple, he stops to talk to the doctors of the law.
As you see, we know little of the Child Jesus, but we can learn a lot from Him if we look at the lives of children. It is a good habit that parents, grandparents, have, to look at children, what they do.
We find out, first of all, that children want our attention. They must be the focus, why? Because they are proud? No! Because they need to feel protected. And it is necessary for us to put Jesus at the center of our lives and to know, even if it could seem paradoxical, that we have a responsibility to protect Him. He wishes to be in our arms, wishes to be cared for and to be able to fix His gaze on us. Also, make Baby Jesus smile by demonstrating to him our love and joy because He is in our midst. His smile is a sign of love that gives us the certainty of being loved.
Children, finally, love to play. To play with a child, however, means abandoning our logic to enter theirs. If we want them to have fun, you need to understand what pleases them, and not be selfish and make them do things that we like. It is a teaching for us. Before Jesus, we are called to give up our pretense of autonomy – and this is the core of the problem: our pretense of autonomy – to welcome instead the true form of freedom, which consists in knowing who we have in front of us and serving Him. He, this child, is the Son of God who comes to save us. He came among us to show us the face of the Father, which is rich in love and mercy.
Hold, then, the Child Jesus in our arms, putting ourselves at His service: He is the source of love and serenity. It will be a good thing, today, when we go home, to go near the crib and kiss the Baby Jesus and say, “Jesus, I want to be humble like you, humble like God,” and ask Him for this grace.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]
Dear Brothers and Sisters: During this holy season it is customary in many places for each home to set up a Christmas crib, following a tradition begun by Saint Francis of Assisi. The crib scene invites us to adore the Child Jesus and to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation as a revelation of God’s saving love. Devotion to the Child Jesus can teach us much about our faith. Although the Gospels tell us little about our Lord’s childhood, we know from experience the message which all newborn babies bring. By contemplating the Infant Jesus, we come to understand more fully the meaning of his coming among us. Like every baby, the Infant Jesus cries out for our attention; he asks us to care for and protect him. Like every baby, he wants us to smile at him, as a sign of our delight in him and our sharing in the mystery of his love. Finally, he wants us to play with him, to enter into his world and to become like a child ourselves, in order to please him. In these days of Christmas, let us not only gaze upon the Child Jesus, but also take him into our arms and allow him to give us the joy and freedom born of the Father’s merciful love.
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including the pilgrimage groups from Norway, the Philippines and the United States of America. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. With prayerful good wishes that the the Church’s celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for all, I invoke upon you and your families an abundance of joy and peace in the Lord. Happy New Year![Original Text: English]
I offer a warm Christmas greeting to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I am pleased to welcome the faithful of the Dioceses of Vittorio Veneto and Monreale, accompanied by their pastors, Bishop Pizziolo and Mons. Pennisi. I greet the Sisters of the Institute Madri Pie, urging them to live with renewed enthusiasm their founding charism. I greet the children of the Focolare Movement; the candidates of the Valle Brembana- there are so many candidates for confirmation here today! – encouraging them to be messengers of solidarity between nations and witnesses of joy and hope. I wish you all to spread the light of Christ in everyday life, which had shone upon humanity Christmas Night.
I address a special thought to the young, sick and newlyweds. May yhe icon of the crib that we contemplate these days help you, dear young people, to imitate the Holy Family, the model of true love. Sustain yourselves, dear sick people, by offering your sufferings in union with those of Jesus for the salvation of the world. I encourage you, dear newlyweds, to build your house on the rock of the Word of God, making it, along the lines of the one in Nazareth, a welcoming place, full of love, understanding and forgiveness.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]
I invite everyone to pray for the victims of recent disasters that have hit the United States, Britain and South America, especially in Paraguay, which unfortunately, have caused causalities, displaced many, and have wreaked extensive damage. The Lord will give comfort to those populations, and fraternal solidarity to help them in their needs.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]