The Holy Father suggested that our attitude toward the homeless, towards refugees and migrants “takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself?”
The Pontiff lamented that the “faster we can move” with all of modernity’s “time-saving appliances,” the less time we have. “And God? The question of God never seems urgent,” he said. “Our time is already completely full.”
He asked if God has any place even in our thinking. “There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so ‘full’ of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger.”
Sounds of heaven
In contrast, the Pope noted the song of the angels, who begin their hymn with the words “Glory to God in the highest. God is glorious,” Benedict declared. “God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.”
The Holy Father went on to speak of the second part of the angels’ message — “peace on earth among men” — considering the role of religion in history’s wars, and in peace.
“It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property,” he said. “[…] [Y]et it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be.”
The Holy Father invited prayer for the places where Christ lived and for the town of Bethlehem. “Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom,” he said. “Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.”
The Pontiff concluded the homily by again encouraging the faithful to give space to God. “The shepherds made haste,” he said. “Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us.” By Kathleen Naab (On ZENIT’s Web page: Full text: www.zenit.org/article-36238?lenglish
1. What is God’s message to you in Benedict XVI’s reflections?
2. How will His message to you affect or influence the way you (and your family) will observe this Christmas season?