Francis: Child Jesus shows mystery of God’s humility, our need to let go

Pope Francis prays at his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 30. (CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)
Pope Francis prays at his weekly audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 30. (CNS/Max Rossi, Reuters)

by Joshua J. McElwee

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Pope Francis has called on Christians to take time during the continuing Christmas season to contemplate the mystery of the child Jesus, saying his infancy shows us the importance of being humble and letting go of our pretense of control in life.

In his weekly audience with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on a freezing morning in Rome Wednesday, the pontiff said God’s humility is so great that “for us he was made small.”

“This is a great mystery,” Francis told thousands in the crowd, bundled in winter coats and scarves. “God is humble! We are proud, full of vanity and we believe great things about ourselves.”

“We are nothing,” said the pope. “He, the great one, is humble and is made a child. This is a true mystery! God is humble. It is beautiful, eh?”

“There was a time in which, in the divine-human person of Christ, God was a child, and this must have a particular significance for our faith,” Francis continued.

“It is true that his death on the cross and his resurrection are the maximum expression of his redeeming love, but we cannot forget that all his earthly life is revelation and teaching,” said the pope. “In this Christmas period, we remember his infancy. To grow in faith, we must contemplate more often the child Jesus.”

The pontiff said that while the Gospels do not tell us much about Jesus’ youth, we can learn much about his childhood if we look at the life of the children around us.

“We discover, before all, that children want our attention,” said Francis.

“Why do they want to be at the center?” he asked. “Because they are proud? No! Because they need to feel protected.”

“It is necessary also for us to put Jesus at the center of our lives and know, even if it can seem paradoxical, that we have the responsibility to protect him,” said the pope. “He wants to be between our arms, wants to be taken care of, to fix his gaze in ours.”

“In front of Jesus we are called to abandon our pretense of autonomy -- and this is the nut of the problem, our pretense of autonomy -- to welcome instead the true form of freedom, that consists of knowing who we are before and serving him,” the pontiff said. “He, child, is the son of God who comes to save us. He comes amongst us to show us the face of the father, rich in love and mercy.”

Ending his audience Wednesday, Francis suggested that when people go home they take some time to contemplate the nativity scene in their house and to kiss the representation of the baby Jesus.

The pontiff suggested people could pray: “Jesus, I want to be humble like you, humble like God.”

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]

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