In giving his first Midnight Mass homily at Holy Name Cathedral, Chicago's ninth archbishop showed that he not only has a sense of humor but also that he's not one to shy away from controversy.
Archbishop Blase Cupich called for Catholics to live like the shepherds in the Nativity story, who cared for others before themselves. It's a selflessness he said he sees in the parents of sick children, health care workers and law enforcement officers, even as they face scrutiny around the country.
"I see it .. in the police and the first responders, who each day and even on Christmas Day leave their homes to protect our cities, who are willing to do so even when controversies arise and individual incidents overshadow their incomparable devotion and dedication to serve others," he said, referring to the spate of protests that have arisen around the country following officer-involved shootings and a lack of indictments in those incidents.
In what may be surprising to some, the archbishop also touched upon the sex abuse scandal that's rocked the church.
"I've seen it in our priests who, despite this cloud of scandals caused by a fraction of their number, rise each day to celebrate the Eucharist, bury the dead, celebrate new life in marriage and baptism, care for the sick, and comfort the dying," he said.
His message this Christmas to parishioners: believe, and act on Pope Francis' call to service.
"My invitation to you this evening, then, is to trust in that word. To trust that God is real, so that you will be the new chapter this night of the gospel. You will go out, praising and glorifying God."
Cupich, who took the helm of the Archdiocese of Chicago just five weeks ago, drew laughter from those in attendance, including Cardinal Archbishop Emeritus Francis George, when he told of his response when asked of his favorite sports team.
"When I say, 'da Bears,' I get groans," said Cupich, who came to Chicago from Spokane, Washington.
The archbishop started Wednesday off with a visit to the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, where he commended workers for their dedication to the sick and their parents.
The caregivers "many times suffer just as much, or even more, than their children," he said.
Cupich's Christmas Day schedule included a visit with inmates at the Cook County Jail. A statement from the office of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Cupich would lead a Christmas Mass in the Division 11 section of the jail. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was scheduled to speak in Division 4.
Jackson spoke at the jail last year. He called on Cook County to consider releasing pretrial detainees charged with nonviolent offenses who can't afford bail. He said some could be put on electronic monitoring.