Pope Francis' Christmas Message to the Curia "Here is the lesson of Christmas: humility is the great condition of faith, of spiritual life, of holiness." FULL TEXT + Video
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALIZATION AND OF THE ROMAN CURIA,
FOR THE PRESENTATION OF THE CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
Hall of Blessing
Thursday, 23 December 2021
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
As every year, we have the opportunity to meet a few days before the Christmas party. It is a way to say our fraternity "aloud" through the exchange of Christmas greetings, but it is also a moment of reflection and verification for each of us, so that the light of the Word made flesh can show us who we are better and better and our mission.
We all know: the mystery of Christmas is the mystery of God who comes into the world through the way of humility. He became flesh: that great synkatabasis . This time seems to have forgotten humility, or it seems to have simply relegated it to a form of moralism, emptying it of the disruptive force with which it is endowed.
But if we had to express the whole mystery of Christmas in one word, I believe that the word humility is the one that can help us most. The Gospels speak to us of a poor, sober scenario, not suitable for welcoming a woman who is about to give birth. Yet the King of kings comes into the world not attracting attention, but arousing a mysterious attraction in the hearts of those who feel the disruptive presence of a novelty that is about to change history. This is why I like to think and also to say that humility was his entrance door and invites us, all of us, to cross it . That passage from the Exercises comes to mind: one cannot go forward without humility, and one cannot go forward in humility without humiliation. And St. Ignatius tells us to ask for humiliations.
It is not easy to understand what humility is. It is the result of a change that the Spirit himself works in us through the history we live, as for example happened to Naaman the Syrian (cf. 2 Kings 5). This character enjoyed great fame at the time of the prophet Elisha. He was a valiant general in the Aramean army, who had shown his valor and courage on several occasions. But together with the fame, the strength, the esteem, the honors, the glory, this man is forced to live with a terrible drama: he is a leper. His armor, the same armor that gives him fame, actually covers a fragile, wounded, sick humanity. We often find this contradiction in our lives: sometimes the great gifts are the armor to cover great weaknesses.
Naaman understands a fundamental truth: you can't spend your life hiding behind an armor, a role, a social recognition: in the end, it hurts. There comes a time, in everyone's existence, when there is a desire to no longer live behind the covering of the glory of this world, but in the fullness of a sincere life, without the need for armor and masks. This desire pushes the valiant general Naaman to set out in search of someone who can help him, and he does so starting from the suggestion of a slave, a Jewish prisoner of war who tells of a God who is capable of healing such contradictions.
Having stocked up with silver and gold, Naaman sets out on his journey and thus comes before the prophet Elisha. He asks Naaman, as the only condition for his recovery, the simple gesture of undressing and washing himself seven times in the Jordan River. No fame, no honor, gold or silver! Saving grace is free , it cannot be reduced to the price of the things of this world.
Naaman resists this request, it seems to him too banal, too simple, too accessible. It seems that the strength of simplicity had no place in his imagination . But the words of his servants make him change his mind: «If the prophet had ordered you a difficult thing, would you not have done it? How much more now that he has said to you: "Wash yourself, and you will be healed"? " ( 2 Kings 5:13). Naaman surrenders, and with a gesture of humility he "descends", takes off his armor, descends into the waters of the Jordan, "and his flesh returned like the flesh of a child; he was healed "( 2 Kings 5:14). The lesson is great! The humility of exposing one's humanity, according to the word of the Lord, obtains healing for Naaman.
The story of Naaman reminds us that Christmas is a time when each of us must have the courage to take off our armor, to step out of the role of our role, of social recognition, of the gleam of the glory of this world, and assume the his own humility. We can do this starting from a stronger, more convincing, more authoritative example: that of the Son of God, who does not shy away from the humility of "descending" into history by becoming man, becoming a child, frail, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger ( cf.Lk 2:16). Having removed our clothes, our prerogatives, our roles, our titles, we are all lepers, all of us, in need of being healed. Christmas is the living memory of this awareness and helps us to understand it more deeply.
Dear brothers and sisters, if we forget our humanity we live only on the honors of our armor, but Jesus reminds us of an uncomfortable and unsettling truth: "What is the point of gaining the whole world if you then lose yourself?" (cf Mk 8:36).
This is the dangerous temptation - I have recalled it on other occasions - of spiritual worldliness, which unlike all other temptations is difficult to unmask, because it is covered by everything that normally reassures us: our role, the liturgy, the doctrine, religiosity. I wrote in Evangelii gaudium: «In this context, the vainglory of those who are content with having some power and prefer to be generals of defeated armies rather than mere soldiers of a squadron that continues to fight is fueled. How many times do we dream of expansionist, meticulous and well-designed apostolic plans, typical of defeated generals! Thus we deny our history of the Church, which is glorious as a history of sacrifices, of hope, of daily struggle, of life consumed in service, of constancy in hard work, because all work is "the sweat of our brow". Instead we entertain ourselves in vain talking about "what should be done" - the sin of "should be done" - as spiritual teachers and pastoralists who give instructions while remaining on the outside.n. 96 ).
Humility is the ability to know how to live without despair, with realism, joy and hope, our humanity; this humanity loved and blessed by the Lord. Humility is understanding that we don't have to be ashamed of our frailty. Jesus teaches us to look at our misery with the same love and tenderness with which we look at a small, fragile child in need of everything. Without humility we will seek reassurance, and maybe we will find it, but we certainly will not find what saves us, what can heal us. The reassurances are the most perverse fruit of spiritual worldliness, which reveals the lack of faith, hope and charity, and they become the inability to know how to discern the truth of things. If Naaman had only continued to accumulate medals to put on his armor, he would eventually have been devoured by leprosy: apparently alive, yes, but closed and isolated in his illness.
We all know that the opposite of humility is pride. A verse of the prophet Malachi, which touched me so much, helps us to understand by contrast what difference there is between the way of humility and that of pride: «Then all the proud and all those who commit injustice will be like straw; that day when he comes he will set them on fire - says the Lord of hosts - so as not to leave them neither root nor sprout "(3:19).
The Prophet uses a suggestive image that describes pride well: it - he says - is like straw. Then, when the fire comes, the straw becomes ashes, burns, disappears. And it also tells us that those who live by relying on pride find themselves deprived of the most important things we have: the roots and the shoots. The roots tell of our vital link with the past from which we draw lymph to be able to live in the present. The sprouts are the present that does not die, but that becomes tomorrow, becomes the future. Staying in a present that has no more roots and no more sprouts means living the end. Thus the proud, locked up in his little world, no longer has past or future, no longer has roots or buds and lives with the bitter taste of sterile sadness that takes hold of the heart as "the most precious of the devil's elixirs". The humble, on the other hand, lives constantly guided by two verbs: remember - the roots - and generate , fruit from the roots and shoots, and thus live the joyful opening of fecundity.
To remember etymologically means "to bring back to the heart", to remember . The vital memory we have of Tradition, of the roots, is not a cult of the past, but an interior gesture through which we constantly bring back to the heart what preceded us, what has crossed our history, what has brought us here. Remembering is not repeating, but treasuring, reviving and, with gratitude, letting the power of the Holy Spirit make our hearts burn, as did the first disciples (cf. Lk 24:32).
But so that remembering does not become a prison of the past, we need another verb: to generate . The humble person - the humble man, the humble woman - also cares about the future, not only the past, because she knows how to look ahead, she knows how to look at the sprouts, with a memory full of gratitude. The humble one generates, invites and pushes towards what is not known. Instead the proud repeats, stiffens - rigidity is a perversion, it is a current perversion - and closes in its repetition, feels secure in what it knows and fears the new because it cannot control it, feels destabilized by it ... because it has lost the memory.
The humble person accepts to be questioned, opens up to newness and does so because he feels strong in what precedes him, in his roots, in his belonging. His present is inhabited by a past that opens him to the future with hope. Unlike the proud, he knows that neither his merits nor his "good habits" are the principle and foundation of his existence; therefore he is capable of trusting; the proud have none.
We are all called to humility because we are called to remember and generate, we are called to find the right relationship with the roots and with the shoots. Without them we are sick, and destined to disappear.
Jesus, who comes into the world through the way of humility, opens a way for us, shows us a way, shows us a goal.
Dear brothers and sisters, if it is true that without humility one cannot meet God, and one cannot experience salvation, it is equally true that without humility one cannot even meet one's neighbor, brother and sister who live alongside.
On October 17, we began the synodal journey that will see us busy for the next two years. Also in this case, only humility can put us in the right condition to be able to meet and listen, to dialogue and discern, to pray together, as the Cardinal Dean indicated. If everyone remains closed in his own convictions, in his own experience, in the shell of his only feeling and thinking, it is difficult to make room for that experience of the Spirit which, as the Apostle says, is linked to the conviction that we are all children of "a only God the Father of all, who is above all, acts through all and is present in all "( Eph 4 : 6).
"Everyone" is not a misunderstanding word! The clericalism that as a - perverse - temptation winds daily among us makes us always think of a God who speaks only to some, while the others must only listen and perform. The Synod seeks to be the experience of feeling that we are all members of a greater people: the faithful Holy People of God, and therefore disciples who listen and, precisely by virtue of this listening, can also understand the will of God, which is manifested. always unpredictably. However, it would be wrong to think that the Synod is an event reserved for the Church as an abstract entity, distant from us. Synodality is a style to whom we who are here and who live the experience of service to the universal Church through work in the Roman Curia must be converted first of all.
And the Curia - let us not forget - is not only a logistical and bureaucratic tool for the needs of the universal Church, but it is the first body called to bear witness, and precisely for this reason it acquires ever more authority and effectiveness when it takes on the challenges of conversion firsthand. synodal to which it too is called. The organization that we must implement is not of a corporate type, but of an evangelical type.
For this reason, if the Word of God reminds the whole world of the value of poverty, we, members of the Curia, must be the first to commit ourselves to a conversion to sobriety. If the Gospel announces justice, we must be the first to try to live transparently, without favoritism and ropes. If the Church follows the path of synodality, we must be the first to convert to a different style of work, of collaboration, of communion. And this is possible only through the path of humility. Without humility we will not be able to do this.
During the opening of the synodal assembly I used three key words: participation, communion and mission. And they are born from a humble heart: without humility, neither participation, nor communion, nor mission can be done. These words are the three requirements that I would like to indicate as a style of humility to strive for here in the Curia. Three ways to make the way of humility a concrete way to put into practice.
First of all, participation. It should be expressed through a style of co-responsibility. Certainly in the diversity of roles and ministries the responsibilities are different, but it would be important for everyone to feel involved, co-responsible for the work without living the only depersonalizing experience of carrying out a program established by someone else. I am always struck when in the Curia I encounter creativity - I like it so much - and not infrequently it manifests itself above all where space is left and there is space for everyone, even to those who hierarchically seem to occupy a marginal place. I thank you for these examples - I find them, and I like them -, and I encourage you to work so that we are able to generate concrete dynamics in which everyone feels they have an active participation in the mission they have to carry out. Authority becomes service when it shares,
The second word is communion. It does not express itself with majorities or minorities, but is essentially born of the relationship with Christ. We will never have an evangelical style in our environments if not putting Christ back at the center, and not this party or that other, that opinion or that other: Christ at the center. Many of us work together, but what strengthens communion is also being able to pray together, listen to the Word together, build relationships that go beyond simple work and strengthen the bonds of good, bonds of good between us, helping each other. Without this we risk being only strangers who collaborate, competitors who, trying to position themselves better or, worse still, where relationships are created, they seem to take more the fold of complicity for personal interests, forgetting the common cause that holds us together. Complicity creates divisions, creates factions, creates enemies; collaboration demands the greatness of accepting one's partiality and openness to teamwork, even with those who do not think like us. In complicity we are together to obtain an external result. In collaboration we stay together because we have at heart the good of the other and, therefore, of the whole People of God whom we are called to serve: let us not forget the concrete face of the people, let us not forget our roots, the concrete face of those who were our first teachers in the faith. Paul used to say to Timothy: “Remember your mother, remember your grandmother”. In complicity we are together to obtain an external result. In collaboration we stay together because we have at heart the good of the other and, therefore, of the whole People of God whom we are called to serve: let us not forget the concrete face of the people, let us not forget our roots, the concrete face of those who were our first teachers in the faith. Paul used to say to Timothy: “Remember your mother, remember your grandmother”. In complicity we are together to obtain an external result. In collaboration we stay together because we have at heart the good of the other and, therefore, of the whole People of God whom we are called to serve: let us not forget the concrete face of the people, let us not forget our roots, the concrete face of those who were our first teachers in the faith. Paul used to say to Timothy: “Remember your mother, remember your grandmother”.
The perspective of communion implies, at the same time, recognizing the diversity that inhabits us as a gift of the Holy Spirit. Whenever we turn away from this path and experience communion and uniformity as synonyms, we weaken and silence the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit in our midst. The attitude of service asks of us, I would like to say it demands, the magnanimity and generosity to recognize and live with joy the multiform richness of the People of God; and without humility this is not possible. It does me good to reread the beginning of Lumen gentium , those numbers 8 , 12 …: the holy faithful people of God. It is oxygen for the soul to take up these truths again.
The third word is mission . It is what saves us from turning in on ourselves. Whoever is turned in on himself "looks from above and from afar, rejects the prophecy of his brothers, disqualifies those who ask him questions, continually brings out the errors of others and is obsessed with appearances. He has turned the heart's reference back to the closed horizon of his immanence and his interests and, as a consequence of this, he does not learn from his sins nor is he open to forgiveness. These are the two signs of a "closed" person: he does not learn from his sins and is not open to forgiveness. It is a terrible corruption with the appearance of good. It must be avoided by putting the Church in a movement of going out of herself, of mission centered in Jesus Christ, of commitment to the poor "( Evangelii gaudium, 97). Only a heart open to the mission ensures that everything we do ad intra and ad extrais always marked by the regenerative power of the Lord's call. And the mission always involves passion for the poor, that is, for the "missing": those who "lack" something not only in material terms, but also in spiritual, emotional and moral terms. Those who are hungry for bread and those who are hungry for meaning are equally poor. The Church is invited to meet all forms of poverty, and is called to preach the Gospel to all because we are all poor in one way or another, we are missing. But the Church also goes to meet them because we miss them: we miss their voice, their presence, their questions and discussions. The person with a missionary heart feels that she misses her brother and, with the attitude of a beggar, goes to meet him. Mission makes us vulnerable - it's beautiful, mission makes us vulnerable -,
Participation, mission and communion are the characteristics of a humble Church, which listens to the Spirit and places its center outside of itself. Henri de Lubac said: «In the eyes of the world the Church, like her Lord, always has the aspect of a slave. It exists down here in the form of a servant. […] It is neither an academy of scientists, nor a cenacle of refined spirituals, nor an assembly of supermen. Indeed, it is exactly the opposite. The crippled, the deformed, the wretched of every kind flock, the mediocre crowd flock […]; it is difficult, or rather impossible, for the natural man, until a radical transformation has taken place in him, to recognize in this fact the fulfillment of the saving kenosis , the adorable trace of God's humility "( Meditations on the Church, 352).
In conclusion, I would like to wish you and me first to allow ourselves to be evangelized by the humility, the humility of Christmas, the humility of the crib, the poverty and essentiality in which the Son of God entered the world. Even the Magi, who we can certainly think came from a more comfortable condition than Mary and Joseph or the shepherds of Bethlehem, when they find themselves in the presence of the child they prostrate themselves (cf. Mt 2:11). They prostrate themselves. It is not just a gesture of adoration, it is a gesture of humility. The Magi put themselves up to God by prostrating themselves on the bare earth. And this kenosis , this descent, this synkatabasisit is the same that Jesus will fulfill on the last evening of his earthly life, when “he got up from the table, put down his clothes and, taking a towel, wrapped it around his waist. Then he poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to dry them with the towel he was wearing "( Jn 13 : 4-5). The dismay that such gesture arouses provokes the reaction of Peter, but in the end Jesus himself gives his disciples the right interpretation: «You call me Master and Lord and you say well, because I am. So if I, the Lord and the Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. In fact, I have given you an example, so that, as I have done, you too may do so "( Jn 13 : 13-15).
Dear brothers and sisters, remembering our leprosy, shunning the logic of worldliness that deprives us of roots and sprouts, let us allow ourselves to be evangelized by the humility of the Child Jesus. Only by serving and only thinking about our work as a service can we truly be useful to everyone. . We are here - myself first - to learn to kneel and worship the Lord in his humility, and not other gentlemen in their empty opulence. We are like the shepherds, we are like the Magi, we are like Jesus. Here is the lesson of Christmas: humility is the great condition of faith, of spiritual life, of holiness. May the Lord give us a gift of it starting from the primordial manifestation of the Spirit within us: desire. What we do not have, we can at least begin to desire. And ask the Lord for the grace to be able to desire, to become men and women of great desires. And the desire is already the Spirit at work within each of us.
Merry Christmas to all! And I ask you to pray for me. Thank you!
As a souvenir of this Christmas, I would like to leave some books ... But to read it, not to leave it in the library, for our people who will receive the inheritance! First of all, one of a great theologian, unknown because too humble, an undersecretary of the Doctrine of the Faith, Msgr. Armando Matteo, who thinks a little about a social phenomenon and how it causes pastoralism. It's called Convert Peter Pan . On the fate of faith in this society of eternal youth . It's provocative, it's good. The second is a book on the secondary or forgotten characters of the Bible, by Father Luigi Maria Epicoco: The discarded stone , and as a subtitle When the forgotten are saved. It's nice. It is for meditation, for prayer. Reading this I was reminded of the story of Naaman in Siro that I have spoken about. And the third is from an Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr. Fortunatus Nwachukwu, whom you know well. He reflected on gossip, and I like what he painted: that gossip causes identity to "melt". I leave you these three books, and I hope they will help us all move forward. Thank you! Thanks for your work and your cooperation. Thank you.
And we ask the Mother of humility to teach us to be humble: "Hail Mary ..."
 G. Bernanos, Journal d'un curé de Campagna , Paris 1974, 135.
FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Image Screenshot - Translation from Italian