By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis on Tuesday told the faithful that God is fruitful and wants us to be so too, living for others and giving life.
Speaking during the homily at morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope invited those present to contemplate the empty cradle that is awaiting the Child and to make sure that are hearts so not stay closed like a museum specimen.
Sterility and fruitfulness were the two words at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily as he reflected on the births of Samson and of John the Baptist, both of them borne to sterile women, as recounted in the readings of the day.
He commented on how in those days sterility was considered a shame while the birth of a child was seen as a grace and a gift from God.
In the Bible, he said, there are many sterile women who desire a child, and mothers who mourn the loss of their son because they are left without descendants, like Sarah, Noemi, Hannah, Elizabeth, etc.…
Fruitfulness in the Bible is a blessing
The first commandment that God gave to our fathers, the Pope said, was “Fill the earth, be fruitful!” and he said that “Where there is God there is fruitfulness”.
The Pope said there are countries that come to mind “that have chosen the path of sterility and suffer from that serious disease that it a demographic winter (…) They do not have children”.
And pointing out that this is sometimes confused for ‘economic wellbeing’; he said that it is not a blessing to have countries that are empty of children: “Fruitfulness, he said, is always a blessing of God.”
Material and spiritual fruitfulness, the Pope explained, means giving life. He said a person may choose not to marry, like priests and consecrated persons, but must live by giving life to others. Woe to us, he continued, if we are not fruitful with good works.
Even the desert will flourish: it is God's promise
Fruitfulness, Francis continued, is a sign of God, and he recalled how the prophets chose beautiful symbols like the desert. “What is more sterile than a desert?” He said “and yet they say that even the desert will flourish, the dryness will be filled with water. This is God’s promise”.
The devil, the Pope continued, wants infertility: “He does not want us to give life, be it physical or spiritual, to others”.
“He who lives for himself produces selfishness, pride, vanity, greasing the soul without living for others. The devil is the one who grows the weeds of egoism and stops us from being fruitful” he said.
Fruitfulness is a grace to ask God
The Pope said it is a grace to have children to close our eyes when we die, and he recalled the example of a ninety-year-old missionary in Patagonia who would say that his life had passed like a breath but that he had had so many spiritual children besides right up until his last illness.
And he invited the faithful to look to Christmas:
“Here is an empty cradle, we can look at it. It can be seen as a symbol of hope because the Child will come, or it can be seen as an object from a museum, empty of life. Our heart is like the cradle: is it empty? Or is it open to continuously receive and give life?” he said.
I suggest, Francis concluded to look at this empty cradle and say: “Come, Lord, fill the cradle, fill my heart and help me to give life, to be fruitful”.