Keep Christ in Christmas, fight pressure to conform to world, pope says

A priest carries a figurine of the baby Jesus in procession to a creche in St. Peter's Basilica during Christmas Eve Mass in 2010. (CNS/Paul Haring)

A priest carries a figurine of the baby Jesus in procession to a creche in St. Peter’s Basilica during Christmas Eve Mass in 2010. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Keeping the “Christ” in “Christmas” is part of not giving in to pressure to conform to the “norm” and become like nonbelievers, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.

Giving in to the things of the world is like saying, “Let’s put our ID up for auction. We are the same as everyone,” the pope said.

Celebrating an early morning Mass Nov. 16, Pope Francis warned against the very small, hidden way worldliness takes root in a culture and then leads to apostasy and religious persecution.

In fact, “the liturgy in these final days of the liturgical year” urges people to be careful of the “poisonous roots” that lead people away from God, he said.

The pope focused on the day’s reading from the First Book of the Maccabees in which many “children of Israel” wanted an alliance with the Gentiles in order to be better protected. They abandoned their religious practices and covenant with God, and took to the pagan ways of the Gentiles.

The pope said the reading showed how the king’s order to create one identical people led to apostasy.

“In the history of the church, in history, we have seen — I’m thinking of one example — how the name of religious holidays has been changed — Christmas has another name, in order to erase identity.”

But this new “humanism” in which differences are not accepted leads to religious persecution, the pope said, as the day’s first reading shows how those who were determined to keep to their religious practices were condemned to death by royal decree.

“It begins with a root, it’s small, and it ends in the abomination of desolation, in persecution. This is the deceit of worldliness,” he said.

Today, too, there is pressure from “this humanism that comes to take the place of the true man, Jesus Christ, that comes to take away our Christian identity and leads us to a single way of thinking: ‘Everyone does it this way, why not us?'”

He said people today must ask themselves, “What is my identity? Christian or worldly? Or do I say I’m a Christian became I was baptized as a baby and I was born in a Christian nation where everyone is a Christian?”

Worldliness seeps into one’s life very slowly and then grows, it seems justified and backed by sound reason, “and in the end it contaminates, and many evils come from there,” he said.

The pope asked that people pray that God protect them from taking on a worldly mentality and the desire to be “normal” and like everyone else. He also asked that the church always keep its identity grounded in Jesus.

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