Pope: on Christmas Eve, let us think of suffering children, and of Bethlehem without peace
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Peace in the Holy Land and children who suffer from violence, lack of love, and the exploitation of adults: on the night when God did not only "look down," but became a child, "made himself dependent and weak, in need of our love," Benedict XVI dedicated to them his reflections at the Mass for Christmas Eve.
"In every child," he said during the Mass celebrated in St. Peter's basilica, "we see something of the Child of Bethlehem. Every child asks for our love. This night, then, let us think especially of those children who are denied the love of their parents. Let us think of those street children who do not have the blessing of a family home, of those children who are brutally exploited as soldiers and made instruments of violence, instead of messengers of reconciliation and peace. Let us think of those children who are victims of the industry of pornography and every other appalling form of abuse, and thus are traumatized in the depths of their soul. The Child of Bethlehem summons us once again to do everything in our power to put an end to the suffering of these children; to do everything possible to make the light of Bethlehem touch the heart of every man and woman. Only through the conversion of hearts, only through a change in the depths of our hearts can the cause of all this evil be overcome, only thus can the power of the evil one be defeated. Only if people change will the world change; and in order to change, people need the light that comes from God, the light which so unexpectedly entered into our night."
"And speaking of the Child of Bethlehem," he continued, "let us think also of the place named Bethlehem, of the land in which Jesus lived, and which he loved so deeply. And let us pray that peace will be established there, that hatred and violence will cease. Let us pray for mutual understanding, that hearts will be opened, so that borders can be opened. Let us pray that peace will descend there, the peace of which the angels sang that night."
This, he had said moments earlier, is the night in which God "stoops down -he himself comes down as a child to the lowly stable, the symbol of all humanity’s neediness and forsakenness. God truly comes down. He becomes a child and puts himself in the state of complete dependence typical of a newborn child. The Creator who holds all things in his hands, on whom we all depend, makes himself small and in need of human love. God is in the stable."
Around him are the shepherds who, as Luke recounts, are "keeping watch." "This phrase reminds us of a central theme of Jesus’s message, which insistently bids us to keep watch, even to the Agony in the Garden - the command to stay awake, to recognize the Lord’s coming, and to be prepared. Here too the expression seems to imply more than simply being physically awake during the night hour. The shepherds were truly 'watchful' people, with a lively sense of God and of his closeness. They were waiting for God, and were not resigned to his apparent remoteness from their everyday lives. To a watchful heart, the news of great joy can be proclaimed: for you this night the Saviour is born. Only a watchful heart is able to believe the message. Only a watchful heart can instil the courage to set out to find God in the form of a baby in a stable. Let us ask the Lord to help us, too, to become a 'watchful' people."