Wednesday, December 19, 2007
General Audience: Predispose our hearts to Coming Lord
Pope Benedict XVI looks on during his weekly general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican December 19, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)
~translated by Papa Ratzinger Forum
Dear brothers and sisters!
In these days, as we come nearer to the great feast of Christmas, the liturgy urges us to intensify our preparation, offering for our disposition several Biblical texts from both the Old and New Testaments which stimulate us to focus properly on the sense and value of this annual occasion.
If, on one hand, Christmas reminds us of the incredible miracle of the birth of God's Only Son to the Virgin Mary in that cave in Bethlehem, on the other hand, it exhorts us to await, in vigilance and prayer, our Redeemer who on the he last day "will come to judge the living and the dead'.
Perhaps, today, not even we believers truly await the Judgment, but all men expect justice. We see so much injustice in the world - in our small world, in the home, in our neighborhood, as well as in the large world of states and society. And we expect justice to be done.
We expect someone to come forth who can concretely render justice. And in this sense, we pray: 'Come, Lord Jesus Christ as Judge, come in your own way'. The Lord knows how to enter the world to create justice. Let us pray that the Lord, as Judge, answers us and truly creates justice in the world.
We expect justice, but this cannot be only the expression of certain demands with respect to others. To expect justice in the Christian sense means, first of all, that we ourselves start to live under the eyes of the Judge, according to his criteria - that we begin to live in his presence by doing justice in our own lives. Thus, by doing justice ourselves, placing ourselves in the presence of the Judge, we can truly hope for justice.
This is the sense of Advent, of vigilance. The Advent vigilance means living under the eyes of the Judge and thus preparing ourselves and the world for justice. By living under the eyes of God as Judge, we can open the world for the coming of his Son and predispose our hearts to 'The Lord who is coming'.
The Baby, who, two thousand years ago, the shepherds adored in a cave that night in Bethlehem, never tires of visiting us in our daily life, as we proceed like pilgrims towards the Kingdom of God. In waiting for him, the believer becomes representative of the hope of all humanity. Mankind yearns for justice, and so, even if unconsciously, it awaits God - it awaits the salvation that only God can give us.
For us Christians, this waiting is marked by assiduous prayer, as indicated by the particularly evocative series of invocations which are proposed to us, in the nine days preceding Christmas - in the Mass and in the Gospel, as well as in the celebration of Vespers before the Magnificat is sung.
Each of the invocations, which ask for the coming of Wisdom, of the Sun of justice, of God-with-us, contains a prayer addressed to the One who is awaited by all peoples, that his coming may be hastened.
But to invoke the birth of the promised Savior also means committing ourselves to prepare the way, to prepare for him a dwelling worthy not only in the environment around us, but above all, in the spirit.
Allowing ourselves to be guided by the evangelist John, let us seek to address our minds and hearts these days to the eternal Word, Logos, the Word which became flesh and from whose fullness we have received grace upon grace (cfr 1,14-16).
This faith in the Logos-Creator, in the World which created the world, in Him who came as a Baby, this faith and its great hope appear today, unfortunately, to be remote from the reality of life lived daily, whether public or private. The reality seems too huge, and we ourselves have been trying to adapt as best we can, or so it seems.
But in this way, the world only becomes more chaotic and even violent, as we can see every day. And the light of God, the light of truth, becomes extinguished. Life becomes dark and without a compass.
How much more important then that we should be truly believers, and as believers, to reaffirm forcefully, with our life, the mystery of salvation which brings with it the celebration of Christ's Nativity!
In Bethlehem, the Light which illumines our life was made manifest to the world; the Way which leads to the fullness of our humanity was revealed to us.
If we do not acknowledge that God became man, what sense is there in celebrating Christmas? The celebration would be empty. We Christians above all should reaffirm the profoundly felt conviction of the truth about Christ's birth, in order to testify to all our awareness of the unprecedented gift not only for us but for everyone.
From this comes the duty to evangelize, which means precisely the communication of this 'eu-angelion', this 'good news'. This was referred to in the recent document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, called "Doctrinal Note on some aspects of evangelization", which I wish now to pass on for your reflection and to study in depth, personally as well as communally.
Dear friends, in these days when Christmas is imminent, the prayer of the Church is ever more intense that the expectations of peace, salvation and justice, which the world urgently needs today, may be realized.
Let us ask God that violence may be overcome by the power of love, that conflicts give way to reconciliation, that the will to overcome be transformed into a desire for forgiveness, justice and peace.
May the wishes for goodness and love that we exchange these days reach into all the areas of our daily life. May peace be in our hearts that we may be open to the action of God's grace.
May peace dwell in all families so they may spend Christmas together before the creche and a lighted Christmas tree. May the message of brotherhood and hospitality that comes with Christmas contribute to create deeper sensitivity towards the aged and the new forms of poverty, towards the common good in which we are all called upon to take part.
May all the members of the family - above all the children, the aged and the weaker ones - feel the warmth of this feast, and may that warmth spread out through every day of the year.
May Christmas be for all a feast of peace and joy - joy at the birth of he Savior, Prince of Peace. Like the shepherds, let us hasten on our way to Bethlehem. And in the heart of that Holy Night, in our hearts, even we will contemplate the "babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, who lies in a manger" (Lk 2,12-16).
Let us ask the Lord to open our spirits so that we can enter into the mystery of his Nativity. May Mary, who gave her virginal womb to the Word of God, who looked at him as an infant in her arms, and who continues to offer him to everyone as the Redeemer of the world, help us to make of this Christmas an occasion to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ.
This is the wish I affectionately have for all of you who are present here, for your families and those who are dear to you.