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Pope on preparing for Christmas

VATICAN (SE): As the Church set about preparing to celebrate Christmas at the beginning of Advent, Pope Francis emphasised in his homily at the morning Mass in his home in Domus Sanctae Marthae (St. Martha’s House) on November 27 that living Christmas is not a theory or philosophy, but sheer hard work.

He pointed out that it is not always about the things we do, but often what we refrain from doing, especially in irritating times.

“The liturgy points out three attitudes; vigilance in prayer, industriousness in charity and exultantance in praise,” he says, explaining this means that we must pray with vigilance.

“I must be hardworking in charity—fraternal charity, not only giving alms, no; but being tolerant of the people who annoy me, being tolerant at home of the children when they make too much noise; or of the husband or wife when they are difficult; or the mother-in-law… I don’t know… but tolerant, tolerant… charity, always, but hard-working,” he said.

“And also the joy of praising the Lord, exulting in joy. That is how we must live this journey, this desire to encounter the Lord. To encounter him in a good way. Not standing still. And we will encounter the Lord,” Pope Francis continued.

“The Lord always goes beyond, goes first. We take one step and he takes 10. Always. The abundance of grace, of his love, of his tenderness that never tires of seeking us,” he went on.

He added that we are often tempted to think of encountering the Lord as something big and startling, adding that this is not always the case and more often our encounters are in simple occurrences, without fanfare.

He used the example of the biblical story of Naaman, the man suffering from Hansen’s disease who travelled all the way from Syria to seek a cure, only to find out that the God he sought is a God of surprises.

Naaman expected and was prepared to do something extraordinary in order to earn a blessing from God. He discovered that the rich and powerful could not help him, but he humbled himself in front of the prophet, Elisha, on the suggestion of a servant girl.

But then he was even more disappointed and ready to give up when all he was asked to do was wash seven times in the River Jordan.

But as his name suggests, it means delightful, he was a pleasant character and, although a successful general, he was humbled by his sickness. His initial reaction was why should he wash in this puny stream, when his own country had magnificent rivers?

But he was cured in a simple and surprising manner.

Pope Francis said of him, “Even, at times, with small things. We think that encountering the Lord would be something magnificent, like that man of Syria, Naaman, who was a leper. And it is not simple… And he too got a great surprise at God’s way of acting. And our God is the God of surprises, the God that is seeking us, is awaiting us, and asks of us only the little step of good will.”

He then points out that Christmas is about faith, not worldly power or even learning—even religious learning. “The doctors of the law knew everything, all the dogmas of that time, all the morals of that time, everything,” he said.

“But they did not have faith, because their hearts were far from God. Drawing away or having the will to go forward to encounter,” he continued, saying that this is the grace that we ask for today.

“O God, our Father, raise up in us the desire to meet your Christ,” the pope prayed, saying that this is achieved through good works.

“To meet Jesus. And for this we remember the grace that we have asked in prayer, with vigilance in prayer, industriousness in charity, and exulting in praise. And so we will encounter the Lord and we will have a very beautiful surprise,” he concluded.

Be ready to be surprised by the Lord this Christmas.

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