God offers himself to us in the manger in Bethlehem, Pope Francis said in his Christmas homily Monday night, inviting each heart to welcome this heavenly gift.
“At Christmas, we on earth receive Jesus, the bread from heaven,” Pope Francis said on December 24 in St. Peter’s Basilica. “We discover that the life of God can enter into our hearts and dwell there.”
“If we welcome that gift, history changes, starting with each of us. For once Jesus dwells in our heart, the center of life is no longer my ravenous and selfish ego, but the One who is born and lives for love,” he added.
The pope’s homily at the Midnight Mass of Christmas centered on the meaning of Christ’s birthplace, Bethlehem, which translates to “House of Bread” in Aramaic and Hebrew.
Francis explained that “God makes himself small so that he can be our food. By feeding on him, the bread of life, we can be reborn in love, and break the spiral of grasping and greed.”
“Standing before the manger, we understand that the food of life is not material riches but love, not gluttony but charity, not ostentation but simplicity,” he said.
The pope extended a challenge to simplify one’s life and to share with others at Christmastime.
“In our day, for many people, life’s meaning is found in possessing, in having an excess of material objects. An insatiable greed marks all human history, even today, when, paradoxically, a few dine luxuriantly while all too many go without the daily bread needed to survive,” he said.
“As we enter the stable, sensing in the tender poverty of the newborn Child a new fragrance of life, the odour of simplicity, let us ask ourselves: Do I really need all these material objects and complicated recipes for living? Can I manage without all these unnecessary extras and live a life of greater simplicity?” Francis asked.
He pointed to the simplicity of the shepherds of Bethlehem, who “went with haste” to meet Christ, taking a risk for God.
“‘Let us go now to Bethlehem.’ With these words, the shepherds set out. We too, Lord, want to go up to Bethlehem. Today too, the road is uphill: the heights of our selfishness need to be surmounted, and we must not lose our footing or slide into worldliness and consumerism.”
Francis encouraged everyone to ask themselves, “At Christmas do I break my bread with those who have none?”
“I want to come to Bethlehem, Lord, because there you await me. I want to realize that you, lying in a manger, are the bread of my life. I need the tender fragrance of your love so that I, in turn, can be bread broken for the world,” Pope Francis said.