Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Third Sunday in Advent



In 2008 Pope Benedict blessed the children who gathered in St. Peter’s Square with the tiny figurines of the Christ Child for the crib scenes at home. As we pray for children let us reflect on what Pope Benedict said at that time.

This Sunday … is called "Gaudete Sunday": "rejoice", because the Entrance Antiphon of Holy Mass takes up St Paul's words in the Letter to the Philippians where it says: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice". And immediately after he explains the reason, because "The Lord is at hand" (Phil 4: 4-5). This is the reason for joy. But what does "the Lord is at hand" mean? In what sense must we understand this "closeness" of God? The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Philippi, is evidently thinking of Christ's return and invites them to rejoice because it is certain. Yet, St Paul in his Letter to the Thessalonians, warns that no one can know the moment of the Lord's coming (cf. 1 Thes 5: 1-2) and puts people on guard against any kind of alarmism, as if Christ's return were imminent (cf. 2 Thes 2: 1-2). Thus the Church, illumined by the Holy Spirit, already at that time understood increasingly better that God's "closeness" is not a question of space and time but rather of love: love brings people together! This coming Christmas will remind us of this fundamental truth of our faith and in front of the manger we shall be able to savor Christian joy contemplating in the newborn Jesus the Face of God who made himself close to us out of love.

In this light, it gives me real pleasure to renew the beautiful tradition of the Blessing of the Christ Child figurines, the miniature statues of the Baby Jesus to be placed in the manger. I address you in particular, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come this morning with your Baby Jesus figurines that I now bless. I invite you to join me, following attentively this prayer:

God, our Father you so loved humankind that you sent us your only Son Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, to save us and lead us back to you. We pray that with your Blessing these images of Jesus, who is about to come among us, may be a sign of your presence and love in our homes. Good Father, give your Blessing to us too, to our parents, to our families and to our friends. Open our hearts, so that we may be able to receive Jesus in joy, always do what he asks and see him in all those who are in need of our love. We ask you this in the name of Jesus, your beloved Son who comes to give the world peace. He lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.

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