Vicar of Christ (Fr. Thoman)
I often wonder how popes come up with homily material. Do they sit down at a desk to compose a homily just like I do? (How would they have the time?). Do they ever wonder, "What will I say this Christmas?!" Do they get in a panic mode and say to themselves, "It's only two days away and I don't even have IDEA yet?!" (Like me.) Or do they have researchers and writers helping them? (Not like me.) And even if they do, their unique style shows through.
I recall, for instance the stark contrast between Pope Benedict (a theologian) and Saint PJPII (a philosopher). I would often times read his talks and homilies and be left feeling breathless! How in the world did he ever come up with that?! Where do those deep theological insights come from? Consider, for example his reflections on the Infancy Narratives and the days of Holy Week - two books he wrote while he was pope! They are well worth your read. (Available on Amazon.)
And Pope Francis, of course, contrasts with Pope Benedict. His is a very pastoral style. You can tell he's been in the trenches. He knows the challenges facing everyday people. You will find he easily relates to examples from everyday life. Read his talks and homilies and you will readily see those examples. I find his reflections from scripture remarkable. For example, in his annual talk to the Vatican diplomats a couple of weeks ago - as a run up to the abuse summit in February - he compared Judas with David! I would never think of that! (His point was that either we repent of our sins like David or we sell out our Master like Judas.)
Pope Francis shows his pastoral style again in his Christmas homily. It's a beautiful reflection upon coming to Bethlehem. I encourage you to access it on the Vatican website. He relates the experience of Bethlehem with the question Jesus asks Peter at the end of the gospel of John, "Do you love me?" It sounds like a homily most any other good preacher would give (except his audience is a little bit bigger). His homilies are down-to-earth and quite accessible.
So, where do popes get their material? I don't know. Maybe the wisdom comes with being the Vicar of Christ.