Vatican City, Dec 25, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the tremendous technological progress of mankind during his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” address Christmas morning, but recalled that world is still very much in need of Jesus, its Savior.
The Holy Father recalled that the message, “Our Savior is born to the world!” had been proclaimed in Churches all over the world, during Christmas Vigil Masses. “It is the heavenly message that tells us to fear not, for ‘a great joy’ has come ‘to all the people’ (Lk 1:10),” the Pope said.
“But,” the Pontiff asked, “does a ‘Savior’ still have any value and meaning for the men and women of the third millennium? Is a ‘Savior’ still needed by a humanity which has reached the moon and Mars and is prepared to conquer the universe; for a humanity which knows no limits in its pursuit of nature’s secrets and which has succeeded even in deciphering the marvelous codes of the human genome? Is a Savior needed by a humanity which has invented interactive communication, which navigates in the virtual ocean of the internet and, thanks to the most advanced modern communications technologies, has now made the Earth, our great common home, a global village?”
“This humanity of the twenty-first century appears as a sure and self-sufficient master of its own destiny, the avid proponent of uncontested triumphs,” Pope Benedict said.
“Yet this is not the case,” he continued, pointing to the great suffering which is still present in the world. “People continue to die of hunger and thirst, disease and poverty, in this age of plenty and of unbridled consumerism. Some people remain enslaved, exploited and stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred, hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith. Others see their own bodies and those of their dear ones, particularly their children, maimed by weaponry, by terrorism and by all sorts of violence, at a time when everyone invokes and acclaims progress, solidarity and peace for all.”
“And what of those who, bereft of hope, are forced to leave their homes and countries in order to find humane living conditions elsewhere,” the Pope asked. “How can we help those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their present and future, those who are trapped in the tunnel of loneliness and who often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs? What are we to think of those who choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?”
“How can we not hear, from the very depths of this humanity, at once joyful and anguished, a heart-rending cry for help?”
“It is Christmas,” the Holy Father proclaimed, “today ‘the true light that enlightens every man’ (Jn 1:9) came into the world. ‘The word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (Jn 1:14), proclaims the Evangelist John.”
“Today, this very day, Christ comes once more ‘unto his own,’ and to those who receive him he gives ‘the power to become children of God;’ in a word, he offers them the opportunity to see God’s glory and to share the joy of that Love which became incarnate for us in Bethlehem,” he continued.
“Today ‘our Savior is born to the world,’ for he knows that even today we need him. Despite humanity’s many advances, man has always been the same: a freedom poised between good and evil, between life and death. It is there, in the very depths of his being, in what the Bible calls his ‘heart,’ that man always needs to be ‘saved.’”
“And, in this post-modern age, perhaps he needs a Savior all the more, since the society in which he lives has become more complex and the threats to his personal and moral integrity have become more insidious. Who can defend him, if not the One who loves him to the point of sacrificing on the Cross his only-begotten Son as the Savior of the world?”
Savior of today’s world
It is Christ the Savior who brings a message of peace and should inspire a striving for peace in today’s world, the Pope added.
“Christ is also the Savior of men and women today,” the Holy Father affirmed, asking “who will make this message of hope resound, in a credible way, in every corner of the earth?...Who will help us to realize that with good will, reasonableness and moderation it is possible to avoid aggravating conflicts and instead to find fair solutions?”
“With deep apprehension I think, on this festive day, of the Middle East, marked by so many grave crises and conflicts, and I express my hope that the way will be opened to a just and lasting peace, with respect for the inalienable rights of the peoples living there. I place in the hands of the divine Child of Bethlehem the indications of a resumption of dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians, which we have witnessed in recent days, and the hope of further encouraging developments. I am confident that, after so many victims, destruction and uncertainty, a democratic Lebanon, open to others and in dialogue with different cultures and religions, will survive and progress. I appeal to all those who hold in their hands the fate of Iraq, that there will be an end to the brutal violence that has brought so much bloodshed to the country, and that every one of its inhabitants will be safe to lead a normal life,” the Pontiff said.
Turning to other troubled spots in the world, Pope Benedict added, “I pray to God that in Sri Lanka the parties in conflict will heed the desire of the people for a future of brotherhood and solidarity; that in Darfur and throughout Africa there will be an end to fratricidal conflicts, that the open wounds in that continent will quickly heal and that the steps being made towards reconciliation, democracy and development will be consolidated. May the Divine Child, the Prince of Peace, grant an end to the outbreaks of tension that make uncertain the future of other parts of the world, in Europe and in Latin America.”
A community saved by Christ
Christ’s birth, the Holy Father added, is also the birth of the Church. Referring to the words of Pope Saint Leo the Great, Pope Benedict said “The birth of the Head is also the birth of the body.”
“In Bethlehem the Christian people was born, Christ’s mystical body, in which each member is closely joined to the others in total solidarity. Our Savior is born for all,” the Pope said.
“We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.”
“A community saved by Christ. This is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and his Eucharistic Body,” he proclaimed.
“Only by rediscovering the gift she has received can the Church bear witness to Christ the Savior before all people. She does this with passionate enthusiasm, with full respect for all cultural and religious traditions; she does so joyfully, knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that is authentically human, but instead brings it to fulfillment. In truth, Christ comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates and perfects,” the Pontiff said. “Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him the world might be saved (cf. Jn 3:17).”
The Holy Father offered a final word to the “city and world.” “Dear brothers and sisters, wherever you may be,” he said, “may this message of joy and hope reach your ears: God became man in Jesus Christ, he was born of the Virgin Mary and today he is reborn in the Church. He brings to all the love of the Father in heaven. He is the Savior of the world! Do not be afraid, open your hearts to him and receive him, so that his Kingdom of love and peace may become the common legacy of each man and woman. Happy Christmas!”
Vatican City, Dec 25, 2006 (CNA) - Preaching to an overflowing St. Peter’s Basilica on Christmas Eve, Pope Benedict XVI offered a reflection on the miracle of God’s coming to earth as a small child. The Pontiff told the faithful that the baby Jesus reminds us to care for the smallest and neediest of the world.
The Pontiff referred to the Gospel story of the angel who appears to the shepherds, telling them that their savior has been born as a small child. “Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty,” the Pope noted.
“Exactly the same sign has been given to us,” he continued.” We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.”
God does not wish to overwhelm mankind with his strength, the Holy Father said, but comes as a baby. “He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love,” the Pontiff emphasized, “God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him.”
By becoming small and weak, the he added, “God teaches us to love the little ones. In this way he teaches us to love the weak. In this way he teaches us respect for children. The child of Bethlehem directs our gaze towards all children who suffer and are abused in the world, the born and the unborn. Towards children who are placed as soldiers in a violent world; towards children who have to beg; towards children who suffer deprivation and hunger; towards children who are unloved. In all of these it is the Child of Bethlehem who is crying out to us; it is the God who has become small who appeals to us.”
Simplicity of faith
The Holy Father then turned to a line from the New and Old Testaments which says: “God made his Word short, he abbreviated it.” In addition to considering this line of scripture in reference to the child Jesus’ smallness, the Pope said, it also refers to the simple faith Christ brings.
Over time, the Word which God speaks in Sacred Scripture had become long and complex, obscured for the uneducated, he said. “Jesus ‘abbreviated’ the Word – he showed us once more its deeper simplicity and unity. Everything taught by the Law and the Prophets is summed up – (Christ) says – in the command: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mt 22:37-40).”
This, Pope Benedict said, “is everything – the whole faith is contained in this one act of love which embraces God and humanity.” And in his coming as a child, “He is no longer distant. He is no longer unknown. He is no longer beyond the reach of our heart,” the Holy Father added.
The Holy Father then spoke of the need for men and women to give of themselves at Christmas time.
“For us, God has become a gift,” Benedict said. “He has given himself. He has entered time for us. He who is the Eternal One, above time, he has assumed our time and raised it to himself on high.”
“Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul and our mind to be touched by this fact,” the Pope declared. “Among the many gifts that we buy and receive, let us not forget the true gift: to give each other something of ourselves, to give each other something of our time, to open our time to God.”
“When you give gifts for Christmas, do not give only to those who will give to you in return,” he added, “but give to those who receive from no one and who cannot give you anything back.”
“This is what God has done: he invites us to his wedding feast, something which we cannot reciprocate, but can only receive with joy. Let us imitate him! Let us love God and, starting from him, let us also love man, so that, starting from man, we can then rediscover God in a new way!”