.- 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 âtrue light of the world.â
âThe external environment offers the usual commercial messages, even if in a lower-key way because of the economic crisis,â said the Pope during his Sunday Angelus address in a rain-soaked St. Peterâs Square Dec. 11. The Christian, by contrast, is âcalled to live Advent without being distracted by the lights.â
Christians should keep their eyes fixed on Christ so that âif, in fact, we persevere âvigilant in prayer and rejoicing in praise,â our eyes will be able to recognize in him the true light of the world that comes to enlighten our darkness.â
Tens of thousands of pilgrims were at St. Peterâs Square for the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday. The title is taken from St. Paulâs encouragement in the dayâs reading: âgaudete in Domino semper,â meaning ârejoice always in the Lord.â The day marks a change in the Churchâs 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 ânot the result of fun,â but is âsomething more profoundâ that is âtied to the relationship with God.â
Those who have encountered Christ in their lives âexperience in the heart a serenity and joy that no one and no situation can remove.â
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 âthe heart of man is restless, (and) cannot find peace and serenity until it rests in God.â
Therefore, true joy is not a âpassing moodâ nor âsomething that can be reached through its own efforts.â Instead, it is a gift âborn from the encounter with the living person of Jesus.â
âIn this season of Advent,â the Pope continued, âwe strengthen our certainty that the Lord came among us and continually renews his consoling presence of love and joy.â
God is âcloser to us than we are to ourselves,â he added, citing St. Augustineâs description of God as âmore inward than my innermost and higher than my uppermost.â
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 âbambinelli,â the little statues of the baby Jesus that will take pride of place in family cribs.
âDear children,â said the Pope, âwhen you pray in front of your nativity scene, remember me as well, as I remember you. Thank you and Merry Christmas!â
In response, the children cheered and released balloons and paper lanterns into the air in celebration.