25 Dec CHRISTMAS DAY HOMILY – Greccio, 25 December 2021
The Minister General invites us to experience Christmas with the same joy as St Francis.
The Minister General, Br Massimo Fusarelli, accompanied by Br Israel Porras Alvarado and Br Baptist D’Souza, travelled on 25 December 2021 to Greccio, Italy, to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. The Minister was received by the Provincial of the Province of St Bonaventure of the Friars Minor of Abruzzo-Lazio, Br Luciano De Giusti, together with some friars and pilgrims who had come to the valley of Rieti.
During his homily, the Minister highlighted the importance of Christmas for St Francis and for our times. “Truly, today a holy day has dawned for us, and a glorious light has descended upon the earth. St Francis was struck and touched by this light, to the point of wanting to see it with his own eyes. Not in the romanticism of an outward and disembodied representation. He wanted to experience Christmas here in Greccio among the rocks, with country-folk and simple people, with some animals and a portable altar to celebrate the Eucharist”.
At the end of his homily, the Minister invited those present to celebrate Christmas with joy: “Let us live Christmas in the joy that Francis has shown us in the name of so many, blessed and yet tested by life in so many ways, and for all, we ask for the fullness of blessing and life. Amen”.
In 2023 the Greccio Crèche, created by St. Francis, will be 800 years old.
Full text of the Minister General’s homily at the Mass in Greccio.
A child has been born for us, a son has been given to us.
Today we hear this proclamation in the very place where St Francis wanted to see with his own eyes the poverty in which the Lord Jesus wished to be born. This is the gift that lies at the heart of this day, which Francis wanted to be filled with joy and celebration like no other.
A fragile Child, who will have dominion on his shoulders, wonderful counsellor will be his name (cf. Is 9:5). A power of love and therefore vulnerable, unarmed: this child will be aware of the joys and hopes, the expectations and sufferings of humankind. One of us to the core, with a capacity for love and pain that we alone could never imagine, let alone experience.
Here we are at the heart of the Son’s divine life, who today wanted to take on our human nature as we prayed at the beginning of today’s celebration. With this gift, we receive the proclamation of salvation; God is Lord (cf. Is 52:7). From this flows the song of joy, the consolation of the Lord for his people. There is no limit to this proclamation and this joy, which spreads to the ends of the earth (cf. Is 52:8-10).
We can repeat today with Ps 97: All the earth has seen the salvation of our God. Today’s proclamation is addressed to all peoples and gives us the universal sense of the Good News, which includes human beings and creation, our common home. The whole earth is invited to shout, rejoice, and sing hymns! St Francis in the Canticle of Brother Sun gave voice to creatures, recognising in them the good that comes from God and that in the Lord’s Incarnation is fully recognised and welcomed.
This song and cry of the earth has its centre in Jesus Christ, the beloved Son. Christmas reminds us that God has bound himself forever to our humanity and to creation, remains faithful to it and leads it towards its fullness. We are on a journey. We see the signs of fatigue, sin and death, which challenge us and force us to purify our faith. Today we confirm our faith and ask to grow in it.
Truly, today a holy day has dawned for us, and a glorious light has descended upon the earth. St Francis was struck and touched by this light, to the point of wanting to see it with his own eyes. Not in the romanticism of an outward and disembodied representation. He wanted to experience Christmas here in Greccio among the rocks, with a country folk and simple people, with some animals and a portable altar to celebrate the Eucharist. All very modest and poor. All in the chiaroscuro of light and night, power and poverty, greatness and smallness. Truly life was the light of all people; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it (Jn 1:4-5).
Francis believed in this primacy of the Father’s love in Jesus Christ and in the Spirit, poured out on all creation, reaching out and transforming every person and every creature in mysterious ways.
This Love was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not recognise him. He came among his own, and his own did not receive him (Jn 1:10-11). Closure and rejection are always possible, and this is part of the drama of our condition and of Christmas.
At the same time, to all who received him, he gave power to become children of God (Jn 1:12): it is possible to welcome him and in the fragile flesh of our humanity to recognise his permanent way of being the God with us and not just above us.
We wish each other a Holy Christmas from Greccio in this year that is coming to an end and that has seen us still affected by both positive and wearying events.
Christmas arises within a story made up of light and shadow.
It is Christmas not in spite of our labours and deaths, but in them.
For this, we can still hope.
Let us live Christmas in the joy that Francis has shown us in the name of so many, blessed and yet tested by life in so many ways, and for all, we ask for the fullness of blessing and life. Amen.