.- On Saturday evening in St. Peterâs Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI marked the first day of this yearâs Advent season with a challenge, and a call to Christians to accept the communion offered by God in the coming of Christ.
He presided at a Vespers service which commenced the season of preparation for Christmas as well as the new liturgical year.
In his homily, which focused on a passage from St. Paul first letter to the Thessalonians, the Pope noted the Apostleâs hope that "each individual will be sanctified by God and remain 'sound and blameless' in 'spirit and soul and body' until the final coming of the Lord Jesus."
He pointed out that this hope "contains a fundamental truth, one [St. Paul] seeks to inculcate into the faithful of the community he founded, and that we can sum up like this: God calls us to communion with Him, communion which will be fully realized with the return of Christ, and He Himself undertakes to ensure that we are ready when we reach this final and decisive encounter."
He continued, saying that "The future isâ¦contained in the present or, better still, in the presence of God Himself, in His indefectible love which does not leave us alone, does not abandon us even for an instant, just as fathers and mothers never cease to follow their children's development.â
"Faced with Christ who approaches,â Benedict stressed, âman feels called in all his being. ... Sanctification is a gift of God, it is His initiative, but human beings are called to correspond with all their being, leaving nothing of themselves excluded."
He then recalled that "Just as at the center of human history is the first advent of Christ, and at the end His glorious return, so each individual existence is called to measure itself against Him in a mysterious and multifaceted way during the earthly journey, so as to be found 'in Him' at the moment of His return."
The Pope concluded his homily calling on "Mary Most Holy, the faithful Virgin,â to help him and all the faithful âto make this period of Advent, and the whole of the new liturgical year, a journey of true sanctification, to the praise and glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."