As the year ends, remember the many men and women who are living in inhumane conditions or who are suffering from addiction – and recall that Christ came into the world to bring love, justice, peace, and freedom, Pope Francis said on Monday.
“God the Father sent his Only Son into the world to eradicate from the heart of man the long-standing slavery of sin, and thus restore his dignity,” the pope said December 31.
“And now we must stop,” he continued, “stop and reflect with pain and repentance because, even during this year that draws to a close, so many men and women have lived and do live in conditions of slavery unworthy of human beings.”
In a brief homily during Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis urged Catholics to think of those who do not have a home, especially during the harsh winter months. “They are all sons and daughters of God, but different forms of slavery, sometimes very complex, have led them to live at the limits of human dignity,” he said.
Jesus was also born in poor conditions, he stated, “but not by chance, or by accident; he wanted to be born this way, to manifest the love of God for little ones and the poor, and thus throw into the world the seed of the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace, where no one is a slave, but all are brothers, sons of the one Father.”
The Church does not want to be indifferent to the “slavery of our time,” he continued, or to only observe or help those in need of assistance, but wants to be “within this reality,” and maternally close to those in difficult situations.
First Vespers was said at the Vatican in anticipation of the January 1 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The prayer was followed by Eucharistic adoration and benediction, and by the singing of the “Te Deum,” a Latin hymn of thanksgiving from the early Church.
After the service, the pope will visit the Sand Nativity in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope Francis noted that in contemplation of the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary, “we recognize that God is ‘born of a woman’ so that we could receive the fullness of our humanity, ‘adoption as children.’”
“From his lowering we have been raised up. From his smallness has come our greatness. From his fragility, our strength. From his becoming a servant, our freedom. What name to give to all this, if not Love?” he stated.
The Love “to whom tonight the Holy Mother Church throughout the world lifts up her hymn of praise and thanksgiving.”
St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, says clearly that the Son of God was born “to redeem,” Francis said, “that is, to overcome a condition of slavery and return to freedom, to the dignity and freedom of children.”
In the same passage, St. Paul says that God became man when “the fullness of time had come.”
“It assumes a particular resonance in these final hours of a solar year, in which even more we feel the need for something that makes sense of the passage of time. Something or, better, someone. And this ‘someone’ came, God sent him: he is his Son,’ Jesus,” the pope said.