Dear Women and Men Religious,
I have just sent to your “houses” my warmest Christmas greetings. I wish now to accompany them with a brief meditation on the mystery of the One who “for us came down from heaven.” It is an incredible gift which we receive, one that should inundate our very lives, making us messengers of mercy, joy and hope.
“For us He came down from Heaven”
Dear Women and Men Religious,
We are preparing to celebrate another Christmas. Once again we are given the grace to hear anew the joyous and overwhelming announcement “God so loved the world that he gave us his only Son (John 3:16). For this reason, we proclaim in the Creed – the Son of God “for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven… and became man.”
“He came down from heaven.” The Creator of all things, He who dwells in heaven, who created the earth and entrusted it into our hands, did not remain in heaven. Because He is love (1 John 4:16) and love always seeks to draw closer to that which it loves, the Son of God has wished to personally acquaint himself with our situation on earth. To fulfill this deep desire “the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us” (John 1:14). He became one like us, shared our life even until death, and placed his life into our death. He saved us.
God knows us not only from the height of his omniscience. He knows us because he has “entered” into the depth of the history of each and every one of us. He took that upon himself. He descended into all our events to become more intimate and close to us than we are to ourselves. He took our human nature and shared everything with us: who we are, what we want, what we suffer, what we live at all times. “By his incarnation, the Son of God has in a certain way united himself with each man – says Gaudium et Spes – he has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin” (no. 22).
Struck by this incredible love St. Augustine exclaims: “Wake up, you that sleep… for you God has become man” (Sermon 181, 1).
“He became man.” Since Jesus, the Son made man, has entered into contact with every human life, taking upon himself all its aspects, no one can consider his history as exclusively “his own”. No one can say “I am alone” and declare “I belong only to myself.” If we take Christmas seriously, everyone should in all truth, use “we” whenever speaking of self. One should not say, I love, I suffer, I hope but rather say: we – that is, the Lord and myself – we love, we work, we suffer, we hope. Every act therefore, no matter how small, done to another, for good or for ill, is really done to Jesus. And of these, we will have to give an account (Matthew 25).
The Word of God has joined himself in solidarity with us, not only in that which is positive within us but also in our limitations, pain, failures and poverty. So suffering too – in all its forms – precisely because it is shared by Jesus, can be redeemed, can be lived with love and so transformed into a spring of life, peace and unity. Everything therefore, finds its reason for being in the Word of God: He gives meaning and value to all human suffering and makes to germinate what is sown with love.
In particular, Jesus Christ saves and frees us from our sins by showing us and bestowing upon us the “mercy” of God the Father, as Pope Francis recalled and proclaimed to the entire world on December 8 on the occasion of the inauguration of the special Jubilee Year of Mercy: “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive” (Misericordiae Vultus, no. 3).
Therefore let us celebrate Christmas! Let us exchange gifts and good wishes!
The gift of Christ is his very self, present and alive among us. Let us ask Mary, Mother of God and our Mother to help obtain for us through the humble and penetrating gaze of faith, the realization that Jesus is “God with us.” Nothing will be as before, and everything will become a source of joy if, at this Christmas time, we will realize with renewed wonder that the Lord is close to us with his infinite mercy; that He accompanies us with unfailing loyalty; that He loves us to an infinitely greater extent than we love ourselves; that He comes to our rescue with a force that overcomes all obstacles, “because nothing is impossible with God” (cf. Luke 1:37).
I wish for all of us, that the Lord will give us a heart like his, a heart which opens and expands, full of solicitude towards others, towards their needs and expectations. I wish, in particular, that in the New Year we can bring to all, believers and those who are far from faith, “the balm of mercy…as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” (MV no. 5), thereby making our homes and our communities “an oasis of mercy” (MV, no. 12). God came down to us. We too, let us “come down” towards our brothers and sisters!
We will then be a Christmas that continues: living each day of the New Year of 2016 as a gift of love to all who approach us, thereby filling the world with peace and happiness.
Dear women and men religious, in the name of Pope Francis I renew to you the esteem and gratitude of the Church. I wish all of you a Holy Christmas and I extend to you my heartfelt blessing.
December 17, 2015