VATICAN CITY — At Christmas, God reveals his full power, which is
the power of relentlessly seeking his lost sheep and, when he finds them,
giving them a caress, Pope Francis said.
"One who does not know the caresses of the Lord does not
know Christian doctrine. One who does not let himself be caressed by the Lord
is lost," the pope said Dec. 6 during his early morning Mass in the Domus
Sanctae Marthae where he lives.
Christmas, he said, is a celebration of the fact that "the
Lord comes with his power — which are his caresses — to find us, to save us
like lost sheep and bring us back to the flock of his church."
Pope Francis said that when he reads the Gospel story of the lost
sheep, he always thinks of Judas, "the most perfect lost sheep in the
In the Bible, he said, Judas seems always to have had
"bitterness in his heart," something critical to say about others and
a standoffish attitude.
Judas, who is one of the apostles but betrays the Lord, has a
"double life, that double life that many Christians have — even priests
and bishops, it pains me to say," the pope said.
"We must understand the lost sheep," he said, because
"we, too, always have something — small or not so small — of the lost
The lost sheep, he said, know where the shepherd wants to lead them,
but they go off in another direction.
God's response is described not only in the Gospel story of the
lost sheep, the pope said, but also in the day's first reading from Isaiah 40:
"Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules by his
strong arm. ... Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the
lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care."
Christmas, he said, is a celebration of the coming of the Lord,
who "comes like a judge, but a judge who caresses, a judge who is full of
tenderness, who does everything to save us."
Pope Francis said Matthew 27:3 gives the idea that maybe there
was hope even for Judas who, as it says, "seeing that Jesus had been
condemned, deeply regretted what he had done."
The good news of Christmas, the pope said, is that God never
stops seeking out the lost sheep. Recognizing his love, people should allow
themselves to be consoled and resolve to follow him more closely.
Pope Francis prayed for the grace "to await Christmas
sincerely recognizing our wounds and sins, to await the power of God who comes
to console us, who comes with power, but the power of tenderness and caresses
that are born of his heart, a heart so good that he gave his life for us."