reflections, updates and homilies from Deacon Mike Talbot inspired by the following words from my ordination: Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practice what you teach...
Thursday, December 22, 2022
Pope Francis delivers his Christmas message to the Roman Curia
Pope to Curia: ‘Be vigilant, evil comes back under new guises’
In his annual Christmas greeting to Officials of the Curia, Pope Francis asks them to always be grateful for the graces God grants us, to never think they are no longer in need of conversion, and to contribute to peace in every way.
By Linda Bordoni
Exchanging traditional Christmas greetings with members of the Roman Curia on Thursday, Pope Francis delivered a seven-point speech in which he asked them to never take the Lord’s graces for granted, to always walk a path of conversion, and to be peacemakers at a time in which we have never “felt so great a desire for peace.”
Reflecting on how Jesus’ birth in a simple and poor manger is a lesson in seeing things as they really are, he said “each of us is called to return to what is essential in our own lives, to discard all that is superfluous and a potential hindrance on the path of holiness.”
The Pope went on to call for what he described as the most important interior attitude: gratitude.
“Only when we are conscious of the Lord’s goodness to us can we also give a name to the evil that we have experienced or endured. The realization of our poverty, without the realization of God’s love, would crush us,” he said.
“Without a constant exercise of gratitude, we would end up simply cataloguing our failures and lose sight of what counts most: the graces that the Lord grants us each day.”
Reflecting on an eventful year, the Holy Father said that “before anything else, we want to thank the Lord for all His blessings. Yet we hope that among those blessings is that of our conversion.”
“Conversion is a never-ending story. The worst thing that could happen to us is to think that we are no longer in need of conversion, either as individuals or as a community.”
He said that to be converted “is to learn ever anew how to take the Gospel message seriously and to put it into practice in our lives. It is not simply about avoiding evil but doing all the good that we can.”
“Where the Gospel is concerned, we are always like children needing to learn. The illusion that we have learned everything makes us fall into spiritual pride.”
Pope Francis recalled the conversion inspired by the Second Vatican Council exactly 60 years ago, a conversion that sparked an “effort to understand the Gospel more fully and to make it relevant, living, and effective in our time.”
The challenge of synodality
The Holy Father said that this process is far from complete and noted that the current reflection on the Church’s synodality highlights how the process of understanding Christ’s message never ends, but constantly challenges us to keep Christ’s message alive and not imprison it.
He stressed the need for vigilance, warning those present that it would be naïve to think evil is permanently uprooted: “In short order, it comes back under a new guise.”
“Before, it [evil] appeared rough and violent, now it shows up as elegant and refined. We need to realize that and once again to unmask it.”
“That is how these ‘elegant demons’ are: they enter smoothly, without our even being conscious of them. Only the daily practice of the examination of conscience can enable us to be aware of them,” he said.
Thus, he encouraged those present to always put Christ at the centre, warning against the temptation of putting “too much trust in ourselves, our strategies, and our programmes.” He also warned them of the temptation of thinking “we are safe, better than others, no longer in need of conversion.”
He added, "Some of our failings, also as a Church, are a forceful summons to put Christ back at the centre; for, as Jesus says, ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters’."
Pope Francis dedicated the last two points of his discourse to the subject of peace at a time in which, he said, we think of war-torn Ukraine, but also of the many ongoing conflicts in different parts of our world.
“War and violence are always a catastrophe. Religion must not lend itself to fueling conflicts. The Gospel is always a Gospel of peace, and in the name of no God can one declare a war to be ‘holy’.”
“Wherever death, division, conflict, and innocent suffering reign, there we can recognize only the crucified Jesus,” he said, noting that “the culture of peace is not built up solely between peoples and nations. It begins in the heart of every one of us.”
“Anguished as we are by the spread of wars and violence, we can and must make our own contribution to peace by striving to uproot from our hearts all hatred and resentment towards the brothers and sisters with whom we live.”
The Pope invited the Curia to banish bitterness, anger, and resentment bitterness from their hearts: “If we truly want the din of war to cease and give way to peace, then each of us ought to begin with himself or herself.”
Kindliness, Mercy, Forgiveness
And he pointed to the "medicine" indicated by Saint Paul for building peace: kindliness, mercy, and forgiveness.
Kindliness, he said “means always choosing goodness in our way of relating with one another”; mercy, “accepting the fact that others also have their limits”; and forgiveness, “always giving others a second chance, in the realization that we become saints by fits and starts.”
“God does this with every one of us; He keeps forgiving us; He keeps putting us back on our feet; He always gives us another chance. We ought to do the same.”
"May gratitude, conversion and peace," Pope Francis concluded, "be the gifts of this Christmas."