During Midnight Mass, Francis said “God does not love you because you think and act the right way. He loves you, plain and simple. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on you.” “At Christmas, the question is this: ‘Do I allow myself to be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to his love that comes to save me?’ for if I welcome him, I will change myself and therefore the world.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Midnight Mass in the Vatican basilica marking the birth of Jesus, saying that with this event "the love of God has been revealed to us", it is an “extravagant” love, totally free; it is the gift of self that changed history and only wants to be welcomed to change us and thus the world, for it doesn't respond to the logic of giving in order to receives, it just gives.
“Tonight,” said the pontiff, “we realize that, when we failed to measure up, God became small for our sake; while we were going about our own business, he came into our midst. Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us. To me, to you, to each of us, he says today: ‘I love you and I will always love you, for you are precious in my eyes’.
“God does not love you because you think and act the right way. He loves you, plain and simple. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on you. You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord continues to love you. How often do we think that God is good if we are good and punishes us if we are bad. Yet that is not how he is. For all our sins, he continues to love us. His love does not change. It is not fickle; it is faithful. It is patient. This is the gift we find at Christmas. We discover to our amazement that the Lord is absolute gratuity, absolute tender love. His glory does not overwhelm us; his presence does not terrify us. He is born in utter poverty in order to win our hearts by the wealth of his love.”
Christmas is the time when “The grace of God has appeared. Grace is a synonym of beauty. Tonight, in the beauty of God’s love, we also discover our own beauty, for we are beloved of God. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, whether happy or sad, in his eyes we are beautiful, not for what we do but for what we are.”
“The ‘great joy’ proclaimed tonight to the shepherds is indeed ‘for all the people’. We too, with all our weaknesses and failures, are among those shepherds, who were certainly not saints. And just as God called the shepherds, so too he calls us, for he loves us. In the dark night of life, he says to us as he did to them, ‘Be not afraid!’ (Lk 2:10). Take courage, do not lose confidence, do not lose hope, do not think that to love is a waste of time!”
If God loves us freely, not for what we do but for what we are, faced with the gift of his grace, the only thing we can do, Francis stressed, is to “accept the gift. Before we go out to seek God, let us allow ourselves to be sought by him. He always seeks us first. Let us not begin with our own abilities but with his grace, for he, Jesus, is the Saviour. Let us contemplate the Child and let ourselves be caught up in his tender love. Then we have no further excuse for not letting ourselves be loved by him. Whatever goes wrong in our lives, whatever doesn’t work in the Church, whatever problems there are in the world, will no longer serve as an excuse. It will become secondary, for faced with Jesus’ extravagant love, a love of utter meekness and closeness, we have no excuse. At Christmas, the question is this: ‘Do I allow myself to be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to his love that comes to save me?’
“So great a gift deserves immense gratitude. To accept this grace means being ready to give thanks in return. Often we live our lives with such little gratitude. Today is the right day to draw near to the tabernacle, the crèche, the manger, and to say thank you. Let us receive the gift that is Jesus, in order then to become gift like Jesus. To become gift is to give meaning to life. And it is the best way to change the world: we change, the Church changes, history changes, once we stop trying to change others but try to change ourselves and to make of our life a gift.
“Jesus shows this to us tonight. He did not change history by pressuring anyone or by a flood of words, but by the gift of his life. He did not wait until we were good before he loved us, but gave himself freely to us. May we not wait for our neighbours to be good before we do good to them, for the Church to be perfect before we love her, for others to respect us before we serve them. Let us begin with ourselves. This is what it means freely to accept the gift of grace. And holiness is nothing other than preserving this freedom.”
Finally, “if your hands seem empty, if you think your heart is poor in love, this night is for you. The grace of God has appeared, to shine forth in your life. Accept it and the light of Christmas will shine forth in you.”