Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Even Christmas joy can be “wrong” if it is a joy which originates in a culture where “happiness is an idol”, instead of that joy of hope found in the Saviours’ birth. This Sunday is known as “gaudete” Sunday” or the Sunday of “rejoicing” and it offered Benedict XVI the opportunity to reflect on the Christian sense of the season leading up to Christmas.
“The mystery of Bethlehem – the Pope told the 30 thousand people present in St Peter’s square for the Angelus prayer – reveals God –among-us–, the God who is near to us, not only in the sense of time or place; he is near to us because he “married” our humanity; he took our condition on, choosing to be like us in every way, except in sin, so that we could become like Him. Christian joy therefore, lies in this certainty: God is at hand, is with me, in joy and sorrow, in sickness and in health, like a friend and faithful spouse. This joy remains even in the face of trials and sorrow, but not only on the surface, it is a joy that lies in the deepest innermost heart of he person who entrusts himself to God and confides in Him”.
“Some – he continued – ask themselves: but is this joy still possible today? The answer is given, with their very lives, by men and women of every age and social condition, happy to consecrate their existence to others. Was blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta not perhaps the best example of this true evangelical joy, in our times? She lived in daily contact with misery, human degradation, death. Her soul knew the trial of the dark nights of the faith, and yet she gifted God’s smile to all”. Benedict XVI then quoted a phrase of Mother Theresa, where she used to say: “We wait impatiently for Heaven, where God is, but it is in our power to know heaven even here on earth in this very moment. Being happy with God means: loving like Him, helping like Him, giving like Him, and serving like Him”.
“Joy – repeated the Pope – enters the hearts of those who put themselves at the service of the smallest and poorest. God resides in those who love in this way, and he animates them with joy. If instead happiness is made an idol, then the road to true joy, the joy of which Christ speaks, is impossible to find. Unfortunately this is the proposition of cultures which place individual happiness in the place of God, a mentality which finds its emblematic effects in the search for pleasure at all costs, in the spreading of the use of drugs as an escape, a refuge in an artificial paradise, which reveals it to be just an illusion. Dear brothers and sisters, even at Christmas you can make a wrong turn, and mistake the real feast with that which does not open hearts to the joy of Christ”.
Benedict XVI had already spoken of the meaning of Christmas earlier Sunday morning, when he paid a special visit to a parish in Rome, Our Lady of the Rosary of the Portuensi Martyrs, in Magliana a suburb in the west of the Rome diocese. “The Advent liturgy - he had said – constantly repeats to us that we have to wake ourselves up from the sleepiness of habit and mediocrity, we must shake off sadness and discouragement; we have to replenish our hearts because ‘the Lord is at hand’”.
Inspired by the presence close by of the Generosa catacombs, where some of the martyrs lie buried, the Pope commented that “even today, if in a different way, Christ’s salvific message is being contrasted and Christians, no less than before, are being called to give the reasons for their hope, and offer the world witness of the Truth of the only One who saves and redeems”.
The joyful cheers of the numerous children present in St Peter’s square greeted the end of the Angelus prayer. In fact today saw the Roman tradition of the “Blessing of the Infant Jesus” in which children from across the city bring the figure from their nativity scenes to be blessed by the Pope. “So many of you have come despite the cold!” Benedict XVI thanked them, referring to the sunny but decidedly wintery weather.