Sunday, December 17, 2006

Joy of Christmas Directed at the Poor

Pope Benedict's Angelus message for today:


The proclamation of the joy of Christmas, of the coming of the Lord, is directed especially at the “lame of the earth”: those who suffer because they face the tragedy of war, in the Middle East or some places in Africa, or because they are stricken by sickness or solitude, or because, like many of today’s young people, they do not know the true meaning of joy for they have lost themselves in an exaggerated quest for the mirages of consumerism, for moments of intoxication and all forms of alienation. On this day when the liturgy makes a call to joy of the spirit, Benedict XVI urged the faithful to reflect on the true meaning of joy, found not in the myths of our time but in the proclamation of salvation contained in the word of God. The pope remembered especially Iraqi refugees in Syria, “forced to leave their country because of the tragic situation they are experiencing” and he made an appeal on their behalf to “individuals, international organizations and governments” to commit themselves still more “to meet their most urgent needs”.

Today there were many children in the crowd of 40,000 people who took part in the recital of the Angelus in St Peter’s Square, where a Christmas tree has been installed and a crib is being prepared. As per Roman tradition, the children brought ‘baby Jesus’ with them, that is, statuettes of the Child Jesus to place in cribs in parishes, schools and homes, to be blessed by the pope. They noisily welcomed Benedict XVI and responded heartily to his greeting after the Marian prayer. The pope said the call to joy in the antiphon of today’s liturgy, which echoes an exhortation of the apostle Paul, “Gaudete in Domino”, is not directed only at Christians: “It is a prophetic announcement for all humanity, especially for the poorest, in this case, those who are most deprived of joy! Just think about our brothers and sisters who, especially in the Middle East, in some places in Africa and the rest of the world, are experiencing the tragedy of war: how could they experience joy? What will their Christmas be like? Think about sick people and those who are alone, whose soul is tested apart from their physical trials, because they not infrequently feel abandoned: how to share joy with them, without being disrespectful of their pain? But let us think also of those – especially youth – who have lost the meaning of true joy and who vainly search for it in places where it is impossible to find: in an exaggerated quest for self-affirmation and success, in false entertainment, consumerism, moments of intoxication, artificial paradises of drugs and all forms of alienation. We cannot but contrast today’s liturgy of ‘Rejoice!’ with these tragic realities. As in the times of the prophet Zephaniah, the Word of the Lord addresses in a special way those who are undergoing trials, the ‘lame of the earth and orphans of joy’. The invitation to joy is not an alienating message or a sterile palliative; on the contrary, it is a prophecy of salvation, an appeal to redemption that starts with internal renewal.”

The pope continued: “To transform the world, God chose a humble maiden from a village in Galilee, Mary of Nazareth, and greeted her thus: ‘Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.’ The secret of an authentic Christmas lies in these words. God repeats them to the Church, to each one of us: Rejoice, the Lord is near! With the help of Mary, let we offer ourselves with humility and courage so the world may welcome Christ, who is the source of true joy.”

After reciting the Angelus, while greeting the children and youth of Rome, he said: “I bless from my heart all the ‘Baby Jesus’ statues. Dear children, before the crib, pray to Jesus for the intentions of the pope as well! I thank you and wish you a happy Christmas!”

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