This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:25 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on the meaning of the Lord Jesus’ Birth, which Zenit has translated in its entirety below.
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today I would like to reflect with you on the meaning of the Lord Jesus’ Birth, which we are living these days in faith and in celebrations. The setting up of the Crib and, above all the liturgy, with its biblical Readings and its traditional songs, have made us relive “the today” in which “for us is born the Saviour, the Lord Christ” (Luke 2:11).
In our times, especially in Europe, we are witnessing a sort of “distortion” of Christmas: in the name of a false respect that isn’t Christian, which often hides the will to marginalize faith, every reference to the birth of Jesus is eliminated from this feast. However, in reality this event is the only true Christmas! There is no Christmas without Jesus; there’s another feast, but it isn’t Christmas. And if He is at the center, then all the surroundings also, namely the lights, the sounds, the various local traditions, including the characteristic foods, all concur to create the atmosphere of celebration, but with Jesus at the center. If we take Him away, the light is extinguished and everything becomes false.
Through the proclamation of the Church, we, as Pastors of the Gospel (Cf. Luke 2:9), are guided to seek and to find the true light, that of Jesus that, making Himself man as us, shows Himself in an astonishing way: He is born of a poor unknown girl, who gives Him birth in a stable, with only her husband’s help . . . The world isn’t aware of anything, but in Heaven the Angels, who know what it is, exult! And it’s thus that the Son of God presents Himself to us also today: as God’s gift for humanity, which is immersed in the night and in the torpor of sleep (Cf. Isaiah 9:1). And we also witness today the fact that often humanity prefers darkness, because it knows that the light would reveal all those actions and those thoughts that would make it blush or have remorse of conscience. So, the preference is to remain in the darkness and not upset one’s mistaken habits.
We can ask ourselves then what it means to receive the gift of God that is Jesus. As He Himself has taught us with His life, it means to become daily a free gift for those that one meets on one’s way. See why at Christmas gifts are exchanged. The true gift for us is Jesus, and, like Him, we want to be gift for others. And, as we want to be gift for others, we exchange gifts as sign, as signal of this attitude that Jesus teaches us: He, sent by the Father, was a gift for us, and we are gifts for others.
The Apostle Paul gives us a key of synthetic reading, when he writes — this passage of Paul is beautiful –: “For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11-12). The grace of God “appeared” in Jesus, the face of God, to whom the Virgin Mary gave birth as every child of this world, but who didn’t come “from the earth,” He came “from Heaven,” from God. Thus, with the Incarnation of the Son, God has opened for us the way to the new life, not founded on egoism but on love. Jesus’ birth is the greatest gesture of our Father in Heaven.
And, finally, a last important aspect: in Christmas we can see how human history, that which moves the powerful of this world, is visited by God’s history. And God involves those that, consigned to the margins of society, are the first recipients of His gift, that is — the gift — the salvation brought by Jesus. Jesus establishes a friendship with His little ones and scorned ones, which continues in time and which nourishes hope for a better future. To these persons, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, “a great light appears:” (Luke 2”9-12). They were marginalized, not well looked upon, scorned, and to them the great news appears first. With these persons, with the little ones and the scorned, Jesus establishes a friendship that continues in time and that nourishes the hope for a better future. To these persons, represented by the shepherds of Bethlehem, a great light appears, which leads them straight to Jesus. With them, in every time, God wants to build a new world, a world in which there are no longer rejected, mistreated and indigent persons.
Dear brothers and sisters, in these days let us open our mind and heart to receive this grace. Jesus is God’s gift for us, if we receive Him, we can also become Him for others – be a gift of God for others – first of all for those who have never experienced care and tenderness. But how many people have never experienced in their life a caress, loving attention, a gesture of tenderness . . . Christmas pushes us to do so. Thus Jesus comes to be born again in the life of each one of us and, through us, He continues to be gift of salvation for the little ones and the excluded.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
I receive with the joy of the Christmas atmosphere the dear Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the artists and workers of the Golden Circus of Liana Orfei, and I thank them for their delightful performance. Like beauty, the art of the circus always brings us close to God! And you, with your work, with your art, bring people close to God. Thank you for what you do!
I greet the Most Holy Annunziata Confraternity in Panza d’Ischia on the fourth anniversary of its foundation, the group of the Paediatrics sector of the Hospital of Padua and the parish groups, particularly the faithful of Gromlongo di Palazzago, of Vignanello, of Aprilia, of Curno and of Catanzaro. In this Christmas Season we have before our eyes the wonderful mystery of Jesus, gift of God for the whole of humanity. Let us remember, without Jesus it isn’t Christmas; it’s something else.
I’m pleased to express a special greeting to young people, the sick and the newlyweds. Dear young people, be able to be strong in the faith, looking at the Divine Child, Who in the mystery of Christmas offers Himself as gift for the whole of humanity. Dear sick, I wish you to see, in the vivid light of Bethlehem, the meaning of your suffering. And I exhort you, spouses, in building your family life, to maintain love and dedication constant beyond all sacrifice.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]