By Jim Fair

“Jesus did not change history with a flood of words, but by the gift of His life,” Pope Francis said in his Christmas Night Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “He did not wait until we were good before He loved us.”

The Holy Father said we should follow that example and not wait “for our neighbors 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.”

The Christmas Night liturgy began with the chanting of the Kalenda, the proclamation of historic events leading up to Jesus’ birth., reported Vatican News. Immediately afterward, the Pope unveiled the image of the Christ Child at the foot of the altar.

In his homily during the Mass, Pope Francis focused on the theme of God’s grace: “bringing salvation to all” and shining “on our world this night”.

The Pope described this grace as “divine love, the love that changes lives, renews history, liberates from evil, fills hearts with peace and joy”. This love is revealed to us as Jesus, he explained: “In Jesus, the Most High made Himself tiny, so that we might love Him”.

In a world where “everything seems to be about giving in order to get, God comes down freely. His love is non-negotiable”, said the Pope.

“Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us”, continued Pope Francis, because we are precious in His eyes. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on us. “How often do we think that God is good if we are good and punishes us if we are bad”, said the Pope. “Yet that is not how He is… His love does not change. It is not fickle; it is faithful. It is patient”.

”Grace is a synonym of beauty”, continued Pope Francis, and in the beauty of God’s love, “we also discover our own beauty, for we are beloved of God. In His eyes, we are beautiful, “not for what we do but for what we are”.

Pope Francis continued his reflections inviting us to “contemplate the Child and let ourselves be caught up in His tender love”. At Christmas, the question is: “Do I allow myself to be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to His love that comes to save me?”

Accepting this gift of grace means “being ready to give thanks in return”, continued Pope Francis. “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”.

Pope Francis then related the legend of how, “at the birth of Jesus, the shepherds hurried to the stable with different gifts”, but there was one who was very poor and had nothing to give. Seeing that shepherd, embarrassed and with empty hands, Mary put the baby Jesus in his arms, continued the Pope.

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