Pope: Christmas in a time of crisis, a time of the Spirit, a time of growth

Do not judge the Church "hastily on the basis of the crises caused by scandals past and present,” nor use categories like left and right, or “confuse crisis with conflict” that “helps to create or consolidate certain elitist attitudes and ‘cliques’”.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The time of crisis is "a time of the Spirit", part of God's plan, to which we can look with the confidence that things are about to take on a new form.

This also applies to the Church, which should not be judged "hastily" on the basis of the "crises caused by the scandals past and present" and its reform cannot be like “putting a patch on an old garment", but rather like clothing the “Body with a new garment”, the body of Christ, “so that it is clear that the grace we possess does not come from ourselves but from God.”

In order to do this, Pope Francis warns the Roman Curia and the College of Cardinals – whom he met today for the traditional exchange of Christmas greetings, “not to confuse crisis with conflict” which “always creates discord and competition” and causes a “loss of the sense of our common belonging [and] helps to create or consolidate certain elitist attitudes and ‘cliques’ that promote narrow and partial mind-sets that weaken the universality of our mission.”

“The first evil that conflict leads us to, and which we must try to avoid, is gossip.”, which “traps us in an unpleasant, sad and stifling state of self-absorption. It turns crisis into conflict.”

“This is the Christmas of the pandemic, of the health, economic, social and even ecclesial crisis that has indiscriminately struck the whole world.” Francis highlights the “value” of crises. Biblical prophets went through crises, from Abraham to Moses, as did Jesus – in the desert, in Gethsemane, on the cross – and Saint Paul.

“Those who fail to view a crisis in the light of the Gospel simply perform an autopsy on a cadaver. They see the crisis, but not the hope and the light brought by the Gospel. We are troubled by crises not simply because we have forgotten how to see them as the Gospel tells us to, but because we have forgotten that the Gospel is the first to put us in crisis.”

For Francis, the Church is central. “The Church is always an earthen vessel, precious for what it contains and not for how it looks. [. . .] These days it seems evident that the clay of which we are made is chipped, damaged and cracked. We have to strive all the more, lest our frailty become an obstacle to the preaching of the Gospel rather than a testimony to the immense love with which God, who is rich in mercy, has loved us and continues to love us (cf. Eph 2:4).”

“When the Church is viewed in terms of conflict – right versus left, progressive versus traditionalist – she becomes fragmented and polarized, distorting and betraying her true nature. She is, on the other hand, a body in continual crisis, precisely because she is alive. She must never become a body in conflict, with winners and losers, for in this way she would spread apprehension, become more rigid and less synodal, and impose a uniformity far removed from the richness and plurality that the Spirit has bestowed on his Church.

“The ‘old’ is the truth and grace we already possess. The ‘new’ are those different aspects of the truth that we gradually come to understand. No historical form of living the Gospel can exhaust its full comprehension. There are those words from the fifth century: ‘Ut annis scilicet consolidetur, dilatetur tempore, sublimetur aetate’: that is what tradition is, and how it grows.

“If we let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, we will daily draw closer to “all the truth” (Jn 16:13). Without the grace of the Holy Spirit, on the other hand, we can even start to imagine a “synodal” Church that, rather than being inspired by communion with the presence of the Spirit, ends up being seen as just another democratic assembly made up of majorities and minorities. Like a parliament, for example: and this is not synodality. Only the presence of the Holy Spirit makes the difference.

“What should we do during a crisis? First, accept it as a time of grace granted us to discern God’s will for each of us and for the whole Church. We need to enter into the apparent paradoxical notion that “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). We should keep in mind the reassuring words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

“It is essential not to interrupt our dialogue with God, however difficult this may prove. Praying is not easy. [. . .] Prayer will allow us to “hope against all hope” (cf. Rom 4:18).”

At the end of his address, Francis praised the many in the Curia who are “humble and discreet, free of idle chatter, unassuming, faithful, honest and professional”. Hence, “Allow me to ask expressly of all of you, who join me in the service of the Gospel, for the Christmas gift of your generous and whole-hearted cooperation in proclaiming the Good News above all to the poor (cf. Mt 11:5).

“Let us remember that they alone truly know God who welcome the poor, who come from below in their misery, yet as such are sent from on high. We cannot see God’s face, but we can experience it in his turning towards us whenever we show respect for our neighbour, for others who cry out to us in their need.”

“Let no one wilfully hinder the work that the Lord is accomplishing at this moment, and let us ask for the gift to serve in humility, so that he can increase and we decrease (cf. Jn 3:30).” (FP)