Sinner or saint – God loves you, Pope Francis says on Christmas Eve
By Hannah Brockhaus
Vatican City, Dec 24, 2019 / 02:21 pm (CNA).- A person’s weakness and sin does not change Christ’s love for them, and Catholics should strive to treat others the same way, serving anyone and not only those they consider worthy, Pope Francis said on Christmas Eve.
“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,” the pope said Dec. 24 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“May we 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,” he said. “Let us begin with ourselves. This is what it means freely to accept the gift of grace.”
On the vigil of Christmas, Pope Francis spoke about the gift of Christ’s love, which all humanity has received regardless of merit, and what is the proper response to this gift.
“You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things, but the Lord continues to love you,” the pope said, explaining that God is not only good when a person is good.
“For all our sins, he continues to love us. His love does not change,” he added. “This is the gift we find at Christmas. … He is born in utter poverty in order to win our hearts by the wealth of his love.”
According to Francis, the only response to the gratuitous love of God can be acceptance, gratitude, and giving love in return.
“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,” he stated.
“At Christmas, the question is this,” he continued. “‘Do I allow myself to be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to his love that comes to save me?’”
He said today is the right day to draw near the manger, to draw near the tabernacle, “and to say thank you.”
“Let us receive the gift that is Jesus, in order then to become gift like Jesus,” the pope urged. “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.”
Francis noted that Jesus changed the world not through pressure but by the gift of his life.
God finds us beautiful, he continued, “not for what we do but for what we are.” “Today God reminds us of this. He lovingly takes upon himself our humanity and makes it his own.”
The pope reflected on the shepherds in the field, visited by the angels, who received the news of “great joy.”
This message is for everyone, he said. “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,” Pope Francis reminded. “In the dark night of life, he says to us as he did to them, ‘Be not afraid!’”
“Take courage, do not lose confidence, do not lose hope, do not think that to love is a waste of time!” he encouraged. “Tonight love has conquered fear, new hope has arrived, God’s kindly light has overcome the darkness of human arrogance.”
“Mankind, God loves you; for your sake he became man. You are no longer alone!”
“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,” he concluded.