.- Pope Benedict XVI reminded Christians not to be dazzled by the shopping lights of the season but to keep focused on the coming on Jesus Christ, the “true light of the world.”
“The external environment offers the usual commercial messages, even if in a lower-key way because of the economic crisis,” said the Pope during his Sunday Angelus address in a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square Dec. 11. The Christian, by contrast, is “called to live Advent without being distracted by the lights.”
Christians should keep their eyes fixed on Christ so that “if, in fact, we persevere ‘vigilant in prayer and rejoicing in praise,’ our eyes will be able to recognize in him the true light of the world that comes to enlighten our darkness.”
Tens of thousands of pilgrims were at St. Peter’s Square for the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. The title is taken from St. Paul’s encouragement in the day’s reading: “gaudete in Domino semper,” meaning “rejoice always in the Lord.” The day marks a change in the Church’s liturgical colors from the somber purple of Advent to a more hopeful shade of rose.
Pope Benedict acknowledged the importance of time for rest and relaxation. However, he added that true joy is “not the result of fun,” but is “something more profound” that is “tied to the relationship with God.”
Those who have encountered Christ in their lives “experience in the heart a serenity and joy that no one and no situation can remove.”
The Pope paraphrased the famous words of the fourth and fifth century bishop St. Augustine of Hippo. He noted that St. Augustine searched elsewhere in vain for truth, peace and joy before concluding that “the heart of man is restless, (and) cannot find peace and serenity until it rests in God.”
Therefore, true joy is not a “passing mood” nor “something that can be reached through its own efforts.” Instead, it is a gift “born from the encounter with the living person of Jesus.”
“In this season of Advent,” the Pope continued, “we strengthen our certainty that the Lord came among us and continually renews his consoling presence of love and joy.”
God is “closer to us than we are to ourselves,” he added, citing St. Augustine’s description of God as “more inward than my innermost and higher than my uppermost.”
After praying the Angelus with pilgrims, the Pope turned his thoughts and words to the thousands of families who had gathered in St. Peters Square for the traditional blessing of the “bambinelli,” the little statues of the baby Jesus that will take pride of place in family cribs.
“Dear children,” said the Pope, “when you pray in front of your nativity scene, remember me as well, as I remember you. Thank you and Merry Christmas!”
In response, the children cheered and released balloons and paper lanterns into the air in celebration.