St Peter’s Square
Third Sunday of Advent, 14 December 2008
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This Sunday, the Third Sunday in the Season of Advent, is called “Gaudete Sunday”: “rejoice”, because the Entrance Antiphon of Holy Mass takes up St Paul’s words in the Letter to the Philippians where it says: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice”. And immediately after he explains the reason, because “The Lord is at hand” (Phil 4: 4-5). This is the reason for joy. But what does “the Lord is at hand” mean? In what sense must we understand this “closeness” of God? The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Philippi, is evidently thinking of Christ’s return and invites them to rejoice because it is certain. Yet, St Paul in his Letter to the Thessalonians, warns that no one can know the moment of the Lord’s coming (cf. 1 Thes 5: 1-2) and puts people on guard against any kind of alarmism, as if Christ’s return were imminent (cf. 2 Thes 2: 1-2). Thus the Church, illumined by the Holy Spirit, already at that time understood increasingly better that God’s “closeness” is not a question of space and time but rather of love: love brings people together! This coming Christmas will remind us of this fundamental truth of our faith and in front of the manger we shall be able to savour Christian joy contemplating in the newborn Jesus the Face of God who made himself close to us out of love.
In this light, it gives me real pleasure to renew the beautiful tradition of the Blessing of the Christ Child figurines, the miniature statues of the Baby Jesus to be placed in the manger. I address you in particular, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come this morning with your Baby Jesus figurines that I now bless. I invite you to join me, following attentively this prayer:
God, our Father
you so loved humankind
that you sent us your only Son Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and lead us back to you.
We pray that with your Blessing
these images of Jesus,
who is about to come among us,
may be a sign of your presence and
love in our homes.
give your Blessing to us too,
to our parents, to our families and
to our friends.
Open our hearts,
so that we may be able to
receive Jesus in joy,
always do what he asks
and see him in all those
who are in need of our love.
We ask you this in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son
who comes to give the world peace.
He lives and reigns forever and ever.
And now let us recite together the prayer of the Angelus Domini, invoking Mary’s intercession so that Jesus, whose birth brings God’s Blessing to mankind, may be lovingly welcomed in all homes, in Rome and throughout the world.
God Is Near as Friend and Faithful Husband”
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Gaudete in Domino semper – Rejoice in the Lord always (Phil 4: 4). Holy Mass of the Third Sunday of Advent opens with these words of St Paul and is therefore called “gaudete” Sunday. The Apostle urges Christians to rejoice because the Lord’s coming, that is, his glorious return, is certain and will not be delayed. The Church makes this invitation her own while she prepares to celebrate Christmas and her gaze is focused ever more intently on Bethlehem. Indeed, we wait with hope, certain of Christ’s second coming because we have experienced his first. The mystery of Bethlehem reveals to us God-with-us, the God close to us and not merely in the spatial and temporal sense; he is close to us because he has, as it were, “espoused” our humanity; he has taken our condition upon himself, choosing to be like us in all things save sin in order to make us become like him. Christian joy thus springs from this certainty: God is close, he is with me, he is with us, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as a friend and faithful spouse. And this joy endures, even in trials, in suffering itself. It does not remain only on the surface; it dwells in the depths of the person who entrusts himself to God and trusts in him.
Some people ask: but is this joy still possible today? Men and women of every age and social condition, happy to dedicate their existence to others, give us the answer with their lives! Was not Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta an unforgettable witness of true Gospel joy in our time? She lived in touch daily with wretchedness, human degradation and death. Her soul knew the trials of the dark night of faith, yet she gave everyone God’s smile. In one of her writings, we read: “We wait impatiently for paradise, where God is, but it is in our power to be in paradise even here on earth and from this moment. Being happy with God means loving like him, helping like him, giving like him, serving like him” (The Joy of Giving to Others, 1987, p. 143). Yes, joy enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the lowly and poor. God abides in those who love like this and their souls rejoice. If, instead, people make an idol of happiness, they lose their way and it is truly hard for them to find the joy of which Jesus speaks. Unfortunately, this is what is proposed by cultures that replace God by individual happiness, mindsets that find their emblematic effect in seeking pleasure at all costs, in spreading drug use as an escape, a refuge in artificial paradises that later prove to be entirely deceptive.
Dear brothers and sisters, one can lose the way even at Christmas, one can exchange the true celebration for one that does not open the heart to Christ’s joy. May the Virgin Mary help all Christians and people in search of God to reach Bethlehem, to encounter the Child who was born for us, for salvation and for the happiness of all humanity.
© Copyright 2007 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana