Julián Carrón Corriere della Sera
Pope Francis never ceases to amaze us. Speaking at the December 17 General Audience, he
said, “The Incarnation of the Son of God opens a new beginning in the universal history of man and
woman […] within a family, in Nazareth […], in a remote village on the outskirts of the Roman
Empire. Not in Rome, which was the capital of the Empire, not in a big city, but on its nearly
invisible outskirts, indeed, of little renown. […] Jesus dwelt there on that periphery for 30 years.
The Evangelist Luke summarizes this period like this: Jesus ‘was obedient to them’;–that is, to
Mary and Joseph. And someone might say: ‘But did this God, who comes to save us, waste 30 years
there, in that suburban slum?’.” The Lord always throws our plans in disarray, challenging our way
of understanding what is truly useful for life, for history and for the processes underway. Who
among us would ever have chosen a man like Abraham, a simple shepherd, to change the world?
Who would ever have imagined that it would have sufficed?
Even though the people of Israel had seen the Lord’s way of acting many times–starting
when Moses freed the Hebrews from slavery under the Egyptians–in the face of a new trial, the
exile, their scepticism re-emerged. Jeremiah echoes the murmurings of his time: yes, God led the
Israelites out of Egypt, but now? What about now?
Precisely in that moment the prophet issues a new challenge, in which the same method of
God is repeated: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot
to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.”
His entire promise is centered on that shoot. In fact, “the days will come, says the Lord, when they
shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt’ but
rather, ‘As the Lord lives, who brought the descendents of the house of Israel up from the land of
the north’–and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall live on their own land” (Ger.
The Lord will show He is still present by causing His people to return from exile.
God is stubborn in making His people see that the method of the beginning also enables an
impact on all the following processes of history. This is how He challenges the scepticism of the
people and seeks to sustain their hope. But this seems too little to us, too weak, too lacking in
impact, almost ridiculous and disproportionate given the dimensions of the problems we have to
face every day. It is the reason the ancient people of Israel often yielded to the temptation to come
to terms with those in power–whoever they might be, Egypt or Babylon, this is secondary–to seek a
foundation for their own certainty.
God does not change His path, and to continue His design of changing the world, during the
time of the Roman Empire He entrusted Himself to the Son of a virgin, Mary. Without her yes, and
that of Joseph, which showed their trust in the promise of God, nothing would have happened, and
today we would have nothing to celebrate. Instead, we can celebrate again this year, seeing how
important the choice of Abraham was for the world, and how the prophecy of that shoot was
fulfilled in Jesus. From century to century, He has remained in history and today reaches us in the
life of the Church, as then, through a shoot: Pope Francis, who constantly embraces us without
fearing all our fragility and unfaithfulness, and without fearing the journey of our freedom,
precisely like the father with the prodigal son. He renews the ancient prophecy: “In the celebration
of Christmas, the Word, who comes to dwell in the virgin womb of Mary, comes to knock anew at
the heart of every Christian: He passes and knocks. […] How many times does Jesus pass in our life
[…] and how many times do we not realize, because we are so caught up and immersed in our own
thoughts and affairs” (Francis, Angelus, December 21, 2014.)
For this reason, Christmas invites us to convert first of all our view of the source of our
salvation, that is, the solution to the problems that daily life presents us. It challenges each of us
with the great question: from whence do we expect salvation? From the alliances we form with each
other and from our calculations to sort things out, or from this apparently powerless sign, a presence
that is almost unobservable, but real, stubborn, irreducible, that the Mystery sets before our eyes?
Everything is played out there, from the first moment to every step of the development of that
design: our yes to He who calls us and who made all that exists, is the only way to hope to have an
impact on the processes of the world.
As Fr. Giussani said in the beginning of 1968: “We are truly able to be […] the first
protagonists of that profound change, of that profound revolution that will never–I say, never–
consist in what we demand should happen as an exterior, social reality”; in fact, “it will never be in
culture or in the life of society, if it is not first […] in us. […] Unless a revolution of self, in the way
of conceiving of oneself […], without prejudices or reserves, begins among us.” Merry Christmas to
*President of the Fraternity
of Communion and Liberation