The desert will bloom, the blind will see, the deaf will hear. The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, speaks to us about renewal, the Pope said. Everything will be changed, from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good.” A change for the better: this, he said, is what the People of Israel were expecting from the Messiah.
The change that Jesus brings is not simply make-up
Turning then to the Gospel of the day, Pope Francis noted that Jesus went about healing people, helping them “to see a path of change” and this is why they followed Him. They didn’t follow Jesus because He was some sort of novelty; “they followed Him because the message of Jesus touched their hearts.” And “the people saw that Jesus healed, and they followed Him” for that reason as well:
But what Jesus did was not only change things from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good: Jesus made a transformation. It’s not a problem of making something beautiful, it’s not a problem of cosmetics, of make-up: He changed everything from the inside! He made a change that was a re-creation: God had created the world; man fell into sin; Jesus came to re-create the world. And this is the message, the message of the Gospel, that we can clearly see: before healing that man, He forgave his sins. Go that way, to a re-creation, He re-creates that man, [changing him] from a sinner to a just man: He re-creates him as a just man. He makes him new, totally new. And this gives scandal: this gives scandal!
For this reason, the Pope said, the Doctors of the Law, “began to discuss, to murmur,” because they weren’t able to accept His authority. Jesus, he said, “is capable of making us – us sinners – new persons.” It is something, Pope Francis said, “that Mary Magdalen intuits.” She was healthy, “but she had a wound within: she was a sinner.” She had an intuition that Jesus was able to heal not only the body, “but the wounds of the soul. He could re-create it!” And for reason “great faith” is needed.
Opening the heart before the Lord: calling sin by its name
The Lord, the Pope said, “helps us to prepare ourselves for Christmas with great faith” because “for the healing of the soul, for the existential healing the re-creation that Jesus brings requires great faith in us.” Being transformed, he said “is the grace of salvation that Jesus brings.” We need to overcome the temptation to say “I can’t do it,” and to allow ourselves instead to be transformed, to be re-created by Jesus. “Courage” is the word of God:
We are all sinners, but look to the root of your sin, and that the Lord goes there and re-creates it; and that bitter root will flourish, flourish with works of justice; and you will be a new man, a new woman. But if we [say]: ‘Yes, yes, I have some sins; I go, I confess myself… two little words, and then I go on as before,” I don’t allow myself to be re-created by the Lord. Only two coats of paint, and we believe that with this the story’s over. No! Naming my sins, with name and surname: I’ve done this, and this, and this, and I am ashamed at heart. And I open my heart: ‘Lord, the only thing I have. Re-create me! Re-create me! And so we have the courage of going with true faith – as we asked – towards Christmas.’
The Pope said we always “seek to hide the gravity of our sins.” For example when we diminish envy. This, on the other hand, said Pope Francis, “is a very ugly thing. It is like the venom of a serpent” that seeks “to destroy the other!”
Let us allow the Lord to cancel our sins in order to make us truly new
And so the Pope encourages us “to get to the bottom of our sins and then give them to the Lord, so that He will cancel them and help us go forward with faith.” And he emphasized this passage, telling the story of a Saint, a great Bible scholar, who had a very strong character, who was often moved to anger, and who sought forgiveness from the Lord, doing so many acts of renunciation and penance:
The Saint, talking to the Lord said, ‘Are you content, O Lord’ – ‘No!’ – ‘But I have given you everything!’ – ‘No, there’s something missing…’ And this poor man did another penance, said another prayer, did another vigil: ‘I have done this for you, O Lord. Is everything ok? – ‘No! Something’s missing…’ – ‘But what is missing, Lord?’ – ‘Your sins are lacking! Give me your sins!’ This is what the Lord is asking of us today. ‘Courage! Give me your sins and I will make you a new man, a new woman.’ May the Lord give us faith, to believe this.