In the Blessing Room on December 22, 2022, Pope Francis urged the Roman Curia to practice "vigilance... at the service of the Holy See, at the heart of the Church." Reflecting on Sao PauloEpistle to the Ephesians, He told them that "kindness, mercymipardonare our medicine to build peace".
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Roman Curia for the exchange of Christmas greetings
Blessing Room, Thursday, December 22, 2022
Dear brothers and sisters!
1. Once again, the Lord grants us the grace to celebrate the mystery of his birth. Every year, kneeling before the Child lying in the manger (cf.Lucas2:12), we can look at our lives in this special light. It is not the light of the glory of this world, but "the true light, which gives light to all." (John1,9) The humility of the Son of God who shared our human condition is, for us, a lesson in seeing things as they really are. Just as he chose poverty, which is not just the absence of wealth, but extreme simplicity, so each one of us is called to return to the essentials of our own lives, to discard all that is superfluous and potential obstacle in our path. of holiness And this path of holiness is not negotiable.
2. At the same time, we must clearly realize that when reviewing our life and our past, we must always begin by remembering all the good that we have known. Because only when we are aware of the goodness of the Lord towards us can we also name the evil that we experience or endure. The realization of our poverty, without the realization of God's love, would crush us. Consequently, the internal attitude that we must consider most important isgratitude.
The Gospel, to explain this gratitude, tells the story of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus; however, only one of them, a Samaritan, returned to thank him. (cf.Lucas17:11-19) His act of thanksgiving obtained for him, in addition to his physical healing, complete salvation. (cf. v. 19) The encounter with the goodness that God granted him was not superficial; he touched your heart. That's right: without a constant exercise of gratitude, we would end up simply cataloging our faults and losing sight of what counts the most: the graces that the Lord grants us every day.
3. A lot has happened throughout this year, and above all we want to thank the Lord for all his blessings. However, we hope that among those blessings is that of our conversion. Conversion is a never ending story. The worst thing that can happen to us is to think that we no longer need conversion, neither as individuals nor as a community.
To convert is to learn over and over again to take the Gospel message seriously and to put it into practice in our lives. It is not simply a question of avoiding evil, but of doing all the good that we can. This is what it means to be converted. When it comes to the Gospel, we are always like children who need to learn. The illusion of having learned everything makes us fall into spiritual pride.
This year marked the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. What was the Council if not a great moment of conversion for the whole Church? As Saint John XXIII observed: “The Gospel does not change; we are the ones who begin to understand it more fully.” The conversion brought about by the Council was an effort to better understand the Gospel and make it current, alive and effective in our time.
As has happened many times in the history of the Church, also in our time we feel called, as a community of believers, to conversion. This process is far from complete. Our current reflection on the synodality of the Church is the result of our conviction that the process of understanding the message of Christ never ends, but constantly challenges us.
The opposite of conversion is "immobility," the secret belief that we have nothing more to learn from the Gospel. This is the mistake of wanting to crystallize the message of Jesus in a unique and perennially valid way. Rather, the form of it must be able to constantly change, so that its substance remains constantly the same. The true heresy consists not only in preaching another gospel (cf.Galatians1,9), as Saint Paul told us, but also in not translating his message into the languages and ways of thinking of today, as the Apostle of the peoples did.To preserveit means keeping alive and not imprisoning the message of Christ.
4. However, the real problem, which is often overlooked, is that conversion does not just make us aware of the evil so that we can choose the good; it also forces evil to change tactics, to become more insidious, to find new disguises that will be difficult for us to unravel. The battle is real. The tempter always returns, disguised, but he returns.
In the Gospel, Jesus uses a parable to illustrate how this battle unfolds at different times and in different ways: “When a strong and well-armed man guards his castle, his property is safe. But when someone stronger than he attacks and overpowers him, he throws off the armor in which he trusted and divides his booty. (Lucas11:21-22) The first big problem is when we trust ourselves too much, our strategies and our programs. This is the "Pelagianism" that I have spoken of many times. Some of our failures are certainly a grace, because they remind us not to trust in ourselves, but only in the Lord. Some of our shortcomings, also as a Church, are a resounding call to put Christ at the center, because, as he says: "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters." (Lucas11:23) It's very easy.
Dear brothers and sisters, it is not enough to condemn evil, including the evil that lurks silently among us. We need to respond by choosing to be converted. Mere condemnation can give the illusion that we have solved the problem, but what really matters is making the changes that will no longer be trapped by the bad ways of thinking, which are often of this world. One of the most useful virtues to practice in this regard is the virtue ofsurveillance. Jesus uses a striking example to illustrate the need for vigilance, attention to ourselves and to the Church. He tells us: “When the unclean spirit leaves a person, he wanders through arid regions looking for a place to rest, but not finding one, he says: 'I will return to my house from whence I came.' come, find it swept and put in order. Then he goes and brings seven other spirits worse than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first.” (Lucas11:24-26) Our initial conversion follows a certain pattern: the evil that we recognize and try to eradicate from our lives leaves us, but we would be naive to think that it will be long gone. In no time, he returns with a new look. Before he seemed rude and violent, now he is elegant and refined. We need to realize this and once again debunk it. Let me put it this way: they are "fancy devils" - they glide smoothly without us noticing. Onlythe daily practice of the examination of conscienceit can allow us to be aware of them. Hence the importance of the examination of conscience, to watch over our home.
In the 17th century, for example, there was the well-known case of the nuns of Port Royal. One of her abbesses, Mère Angélique, had started well; she had "charismatically" reformed herself and her monastery, even banishing her parents from the cloister. She was a very talented woman, born to rule, but who later became the soul of the Jansenist resistance, intransigent and inflexible even before ecclesiastical authority. She and her nuns were said to be "pure as angels and proud as demons". They expelled the demon, but it returned seven times stronger and, under the appearance of austerity and rigor, introduced rigidity and the presumption that they were better than others. The devil, once expelled, always returns; although in another way, but he returns. Let's stay tuned!
5. In the Gospel, Jesus tells many parables addressed to the just, the scribes and the Pharisees, to unmask their illusion of feeling just and despising others. (cf.Lucas18,9) For example, in the so-called parables of mercy (cf.Lucas15), tells the stories of the lost sheep and the youngest son of that poor father, who is left for dead precisely because of the latter. These parables remind us that the first way to sin is to backslide, backslide, and do what is clearly wrong. However, these parables also include the parables of the lost coin and the parable of the eldest son. These parables hit the mark: we can be lost even at home, like that woman's penny, and we can be unhappy even while remaining formally faithful to our duties, like the eldest son of a merciful father. For those who set out and get lost, it is easy to recognize how far they have gone astray; For those who stay at home, it is not easy to evaluate the hell they live in, convinced that they are mere victims, treated unfairly by the constituted authority and, ultimately, by God himself. How many times does this happen here, at home!
Dear brothers and sisters, we have all had the experience of being lost, like that sheep, or of leaving God behind, like that youngest son. These sins caused us humiliation and for that very reason, by the grace of God, we were able to face them head on. At this moment in our life, we need to pay more attention to the fact that, formally, we are living "at home", within the walls of the institution, at the service of the Holy See, in the heart of the Church. Precisely for this reason, we could easily fall into the temptation of thinking that we are safe, better than others, that we no longer need conversion.
However, we are in greater danger than the others, because we are harassed by the "elegant demon", who does not make a loud entrance, but comes with flowers in hand. Forgive me, brothers and sisters, if I sometimes say things that may sound harsh and direct; It's not because I don't believe in the value of kindness and persuasion. On the contrary, it is because it is good to keep our caresses towards the weary and oppressed, and to have the courage to “afflict the comfortable”, as the Servant of God Fr. Tonino Bello liked to say. Because there are times when the comfort they enjoy is nothing more than the devil's deceit and not the gift of the Spirit.
Pope Francis asks people to be seated at the start of a Christmas audience with Vatican officials on December 22, 2022, in the Vatican audience hall. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
6. I would like to say a final word on the subject ofPaz. Among the titles that the prophet Isaiah gives to the Messiah is that of "Prince of Peace". (9:5) Never before have we felt such a desire for peace. I think of the war-torn Ukraine, but also of the many ongoing conflicts in different parts of our world. War and violence are always a catastrophe. Religion should not serve to fuel conflicts. The Gospel is always a Gospel of peace, and in the name of no God war can be declared “holy”.
Where death, division, conflict and innocent suffering reign, we can only recognize Jesus crucified. At this moment, it is precisely to those who suffer the most that I would like our thoughts to turn. The words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote from his cell, may help us: “Viewed from a Christian perspective, Christmas in a cell can, of course, hardly be considered particularly problematic. Most likely, many of those in this building celebrate a more meaningful and authentic Christmas than in places where it is celebrated in name only. That misery, pain, poverty, loneliness, powerlessness, and guilt mean something very different in God's eyes than they do in human judgment; that God turns towards the same places from which men depart; that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn – a prisoner understands this better than others, and for him this is really good news”. (Letters and Papers from Prison, Letter to Parents, December 17, 1943)
7. Dear brothers and sisters, the culture of peace is not built only between peoples and nations. It begins in the heart of each one of us. Distraught by the spread of wars and violence, we can and must make our own contribution to peace, striving to eradicate from our hearts all hatred and resentment against the brothers and sisters with whom we live. In itLetter to the Ephesians,we read these words, which are also found in the Office of Compline: “Remove from yourselves all bitterness, anger, wrath, strife, and slander, along with all malice, and be kind to one another, merciful, forgiving one another, as God in Christ he forgave you.” (4:31-32) Let us ask ourselves: How much bitterness do we have in our hearts? What are you feeding? What is the source of the outrage that so often distances us and fuels anger and resentment? Why does slander in all its forms become our only way of talking about the things that surround us?
If we really want the noise of war and peace to stop, then each of us must start with ourselves. Saint Paul tells us clearly thatkindness, mercymipardonthey are our medicine to build peace.
KindnessIt means always choosing the good in our way of relating. In addition to gun violence, there is also verbal violence, psychological violence, the violence of abuse of power, and the hidden violence of gossip, all of which are deeply damaging and destructive. In the presence of the Prince of Peace who is coming into the world, let us get rid of all weapons of all kinds. May none of us take advantage of our position and role to put others down.
Compassionit means accepting the fact that others also have their limits. Here, too, it is fair to accept that individuals and institutions, precisely because they are human, are also limited. A pure Church for the pure is only a return to the heresy of Catharism. If that were so, the Gospel and the Bible as a whole would not have told us about the limitations and defects of many of those we now recognize as saints.
Finally,pardonit means always giving others a second chance, in the understanding that we are becoming saints by leaps and bounds. God does this with each one of us; he continues to forgive us; he keeps putting us on our feet; he always gives us another chance. We must do the same. Brothers and sisters, God never tires of forgiving; we are the ones who get tired of asking for forgiveness.
For all war to end, forgiveness is necessary. Otherwise, justice becomes revenge and love is seen only as a form of weakness.
God became a Child, and that Child, once great, allowed himself to be nailed to a cross. There is nothing weaker than the one who is crucified, but this weakness has become the demonstration of God's supreme power. In forgiveness, the power of God is always at work. Mightgratitude,conversion,miPazSo are the gifts this Christmas.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas! And again, I ask you, please don't forget to pray for me. Thanks!