Pope John Paul II, Marxist, in Bethlehem

The M word in the title is, of course, a joke …

The message of the Gospel, of course, remains the same under Pope Francis — and so much of what he says is an (not all that simple but radical) invitation to Christ, to know God’s love and mercy. On my birthday (random fact) during Mass in Manger’s Square in Bethlehem in 2000, Pope John Paul II said the same:

The newborn Child, defenseless and totally dependent on the care of Mary and Joseph, entrusted to their love, is the world’s entire wealth. He is our all!

All. Everything. That has daily, hourly, minute-to-minute implications. It does not allow for indifference. We need not be afraid, because God is with us. The Incarnation made that unmistakably clear. And so did the rest of the story of Salvation History. And so it does. Why hesitate when victory has been won?

This, by the way, is the spot marked in Bethlehem, as seen from my Blackberry (taken one recent Lent):

When he celebrated Mass in Manger’s Square in 2009, Pope Benedict said:

For men and women everywhere, Bethlehem is associated with this joyful message of rebirth, renewal, light and freedom. Yet here, in our midst, how far this magnificent promise seems from being realized!

From the day of his birth, Jesus was “a sign of contradiction” (Lk 2:34), and he continues to be so, even today.

Here in Bethlehem, a special perseverance is asked of Christ’s disciples: perseverance in faithful witness to God’s glory revealed here, in the birth of his Son, to the good news of his peace which came down from heaven to dwell upon the earth.

The ancient Basilica of the Nativity, buffeted by the winds of history and the burden of the ages, stands before us as a witness to the faith which endures and triumphs over the world (cf. 1 Jn 5:4).

A beautiful prayer for Christmas night — and every night and morning — comes from John XXIII, who will be canonized on Divine Mercy Sunday along with John Paul II in 2014 by a pope who is mercifully obsessed with mercy:

Make haste, O Jesus, I offer you my heart; my soul is poor and bare of virtues, the straws of so many imperfections will prick you and make you weep — but O my Lord what can you expect? This little is all I have. I am touched by your poverty, I am moved to tears… Jesus, honor my soul with your presence, adorn it with your graces…
Jesus, I am here waiting for your coming. Wicked men have driven you out and the wind is like ice. Come into my heart. I am a poor man but I will warm you as well as I can. At least be pleased that I wish to welcome you warmly, to love you dearly and sacrifice myself for you. But in your own way you are rich and you see my needs. You are a flame of charity and you will purge my heart of all that is not your own most holy Heart. You are uncreated holiness and you will fill me with those graces which give new life to my soul. O Jesus, come, I have so much to tell you, so many sorrows to confide, so many desires, so many promises, so many hopes. I want to adore you, to kiss you on the brow, O tiny Jesus, to give myself to you once more, for ever. Come, my Jesus, delay no longer, come, be my guest.

To make room for Christ to be the center of our lives is a lifelong commitment, requiring daily growth and renewal and continual surrender. Any good shepherd is going to exhort us to our call, to be truly Christian. What an opportunity another Christmas is to grow in faith!

Spend time with our Lord. Read about Christ. Pray.


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