Midnight Mass – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord – Homily of Pope Francis
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who
dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (
Is 9:1). “An angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them” (Lk
2:9). This is how the liturgy of this holy Christmas night presents to
us the birth of the Saviour: as the light which pierces and dispels the
deepest darkness. The presence of the Lord in the midst of his people
cancels the sorrow of defeat and the misery of slavery, and ushers in
joy and happiness.
We too, in this blessed night, have come to the house of God. We have
passed through the darkness which envelops the earth, guided by the
flame of faith which illuminates our steps, and enlivened by the hope of
finding the “great light”. By opening our hearts, we also can
contemplate the miracle of that child-sun who, arising from on high,
illuminates the horizon.
The origin of the darkness which envelops the world is lost in the
night of the ages. Let us think back to that dark moment when the first
crime of humanity was committed, when the hand of Cain, blinded by envy,
killed his brother Abel (cf.
Gen 4:8). As a result, the
unfolding of the centuries has been marked by violence, wars, hatred and
oppression. But God, who placed a sense of expectation within man made
in his image and likeness, was waiting. God was waiting. He waited for
so long that perhaps at a certain point it seemed he should have given
up. But he could not give up because he could not deny himself (cf.
2:13). Therefore he continued to wait patiently in the face of the
corruption of man and peoples. The patience of God. How difficult it is
to comprehend this: God’s patience towards us.
Through the course of history, the light that shatters the darkness
reveals to us that God is Father and that his patient fidelity is
stronger than darkness and corruption. This is the message of Christmas
night. God does not know outbursts of anger or impatience; he is always
there, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, waiting to
catch from afar a glimpse of the lost son as he returns; and every day,
with patience. The patience of God.
Isaiah’s prophecy announces the rising of a great light which breaks
through the night. This light is born in Bethlehem and is welcomed by
the loving arms of Mary, by the love of Joseph, by the wonder of the
shepherds. When the angels announced the birth of the Redeemer to the
shepherds, they did so with these words: “This will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”
Lk 2:12). The “sign” is in fact the humility of God, the
humility of God taken to the extreme; it is the love with which, that
night, he assumed our frailty, our suffering, our anxieties, our desires
and our limitations. The message that everyone was expecting, that
everyone was searching for in the depths of their souls, was none other
than the tenderness of God: God who looks upon us with eyes full of
love, who accepts our poverty, God who is in love with our smallness.
On this holy night, while we contemplate the Infant Jesus just born
and placed in the manger, we are invited to reflect. How do we welcome
the tenderness of God? Do I allow myself to be taken up by God, to be
embraced by him, or do I prevent him from drawing close? “But I am
searching for the Lord” – we could respond. Nevertheless, what is most
important is not seeking him, but rather allowing him to seek me, find
me and caress me with tenderness. The question put to us simply by the
Infant’s presence is: do I allow God to love me?
More so, do we have the courage to welcome with tenderness the
difficulties and problems of those who are near to us, or do we prefer
impersonal solutions, perhaps effective but devoid of the warmth of the
Gospel? How much the world needs tenderness today! The patience of God,
the closeness of God, the tenderness of God.
The Christian response cannot be different from God’s response to our
smallness. Life must be met with goodness, with meekness. When we
realize that God is in love with our smallness, that he made himself
small in order to better encounter us, we cannot help but open our
hearts to him, and beseech him: “Lord, help me to be like you, give me
the grace of tenderness in the most difficult circumstances of life,
give me the grace of closeness in the face of every need, of meekness in
Dear brothers and sisters, on this holy night we contemplate the
Nativity scene: there “the people who walked in darkness have seen a
great light” (
Is 9:1). People who were unassuming, people open to
receiving the gift of God, were the ones who saw this light. This light
was not seen, however, by the arrogant, the proud, by those who made
laws according to their own personal measures, who were closed off to
others. Let us look to the crib and pray, asking the Blessed Mother: “O
Mary, show us Jesus!”.
© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana