Pope Francis offered a Christmas message of unconditional love, saying, “God continues to love us all, even the worst of us.”
Speaking to thousands of people during Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, the 83-year-old pontiff said, “You may have mistaken ideas, you may have made a complete mess of things… but the Lord continues to love you.
“Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us. To me, to you, to each of us, he says today: ‘I love you and I will always love you, for you are precious in my eyes,'” Pope Francis said.
“God does not love you because you think and act the right way. He loves you, plain and simple. His love is unconditional; it does not depend on you,” he added.
Pope Francis urged the Catholics to strive to treat others the same way Christ did, serving anyone and not only those they consider worthy.
“May we not wait for our neighbors to be good before we do good to them, for the Church to be perfect before we love her, for others to respect us before we serve them,” he said.
“Let us begin with ourselves. This is what it means freely to accept the gift of grace,” he added.
According to Pope Francis, the only response to the gratuitous love of God can be acceptance, gratitude, and giving love in return.
“Whatever goes wrong in our lives, whatever doesn’t work in the Church, whatever problems there are in the world, will no longer serve as an excuse. It will become secondary, for faced with Jesus’ extravagant love, a love of utter meekness and closeness, we have no excuse,” the Pope said.
“At Christmas, the question is this… ‘Do I allow myself to be loved by God? Do I abandon myself to his love that comes to save me?’” he continued.
Pope Francis said today is the right day to draw near the manger, to draw near the tabernacle, “and to say thank you.”
“Let us receive the gift that is Jesus, in order then to become gift like Jesus,” the Pope urged.
“It is the best way to change the world: we change, the Church changes, history changes, once we stop trying to change others but try to change ourselves and to make of our life a gift,” he added.
Pope Francis noted that Christ changed the world not through pressure but by the gift of his life.
“God finds us beautiful,” he continued, “not for what we do but for what we are.”
“Today God reminds us of this. He lovingly takes upon himself our humanity and makes it his own.”
Pope Francis reflected on the shepherds in the field, visited by the angels, who received the news of “great joy.”
“This message is for everyone. We too, with all our weaknesses and failures, are among those shepherds, who were certainly not saints,” he said.
“And just as God called the shepherds, so too he calls us, for he loves us. In the dark night of life, he says to us as he did to them, ‘Be not afraid!’”
Pope Francis encouraged everyone to “take courage, do not lose confidence, do not lose hope, do not think that to love is a waste of time!”
“Tonight love has conquered fear, new hope has arrived, God’s kindly light has overcome the darkness of human arrogance. Mankind, God loves you; for your sake he became man. You are no longer alone!” the pontiff said.
“If your hands seem empty, if you think your heart is poor in love, this night is for you. The grace of God has appeared, to shine forth in your life. Accept it and the light of Christmas will shine forth in you,” he concluded.