01-01-2009 - Traces, n. 1


The Grace of God Was Manifested
in the Flesh and It Showed Its Face

From Christmas 2008 URBI ET ORBI MESSAGE

“The grace of God our Saviour
has appeared to all” (Tit 2:11, Vulg.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, In the words of the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ’s Birth. Today, “the grace of God our Saviour” has truly “appeared to all”! It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today. The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is no longer hidden. It “appeared,” it was manifested in the flesh, it showed its face. Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it? A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In Him, the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: “God saves.”

THE GRACE OF GOD HAS APPEARED. That is why Christmas is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night and spreading out from a precise point in the universe: from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was born. Indeed, He is the light itself, which begins to radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity. He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom, dispels the darkness, and enables us to understand the meaning and the value of our own lives and of all history. Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a scene which we can admire here too, in this Square, as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.

The grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus–the face of the “God who saves,” did not show Himself only for a certain few, but for everyone. Although it is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of Bethlehem few persons encountered Him, still He came for all: Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone. Supernatural grace, by God’s will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or her own “yes,” like Mary, so that his or her heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine light. It was Mary and Joseph who that night welcomed the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20). A small community, in other words, which made haste to adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the Church and all people of good will. Today too those who await Him, who seek Him in their lives, encounter the God who out of love became our brother–all those who turn their hearts to Him, who yearn to see His face and to contribute to the coming of His Kingdom. Jesus Himself would say this in His preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn, the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness’ sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see in Jesus the face of God and then set out again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by the joy of His love.

BROTHERS AND SISTERS, all you who are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope–the heart of the Christmas message–is meant for all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered Him to the shepherds, so on this day the Church presents Him to all humanity, so that each person and every human situation may come to know the power of God’s saving grace, which alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change human hearts, making them oases of peace. (...)
Today, “the grace of God our Saviour has appeared” (cf. Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High and the Son of the Virgin Mary: “God from God, light from light, true God from true God. For us men, and for our salvation, He came down from heaven.” Let us adore Him, this very day, in every corner of the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger. Let us adore Him in silence, while He, still a mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not be afraid, “I am God, and there is no other” (Is 45:22). Come to Me, men and women, peoples and nations, come to Me. Do not be afraid: I have come to bring you the love of the Father, and to show you the way of peace.

LET US GO, THEN, BROTHERS AND SISTERS! Let us make haste, like the shepherds on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us; He has shown us His face, full of grace and mercy! May His coming to us not be in vain! Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to His light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart. Let us draw near to Him with confidence, and bow down in humility to adore Him. Merry Christmas to all!

ANGELUS, St. Peter’s Square, Thursday, January 1, 2009 Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

On this first day of the year, I am pleased to extend my very best wishes for peace and every good to all of you present in St. Peter’s Square and to those linked to us through radio and television. They are wishes that the Christian faith renders, so to speak, “reliable,” anchoring them in the event that we are celebrating in these days: the Incarnation of the Word of God, born of the Virgin Mary. In effect, with and only with the grace of the Lord can we always hope anew that the future will be better than the past. This does not in fact mean to trust in a more fortunate destiny, or in the modern trends of markets and of finance, but rather to make the effort ourselves to be a little better and more responsible, to be able to count on the kindness of the Lord. And this is always possible, because “[God] has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb 1: 2) and speaks to us continually, through the preaching of the Gospel and through the voice of our conscience. In Jesus Christ, the road to salvation has shown to all people a salvation that is first of all spiritual redemption but that involves the entire human–including the social and historical–dimension.

FOR THIS REASON, while the Church celebrates the divine Motherhood of Mary Most Holy on this day that has been for more than 40 years the World Day of Peace, she points to Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace to all. According to the tradition begun by the Servant of God Pope Paul VI, I have written for this occasion a special Message, choosing as its theme: “Fighting poverty to build peace.” In this way, I wish to place myself in dialogue once again with the leaders of nations and of international institutions, offering the Catholic Church’s contribution for the promotion of a world order worthy of man. At the beginning of a new year, my first goal is precisely that of inviting all political leaders and ordinary citizens to not be discouraged in the face of difficulties and failures, but instead to renew their efforts. In the second half of 2008, an economic crisis of vast proportions emerged. That crisis must be studied in depth, like a grave symptom whose cause requires investigation. It is not enough, as Jesus would say, to sew new patches onto an old garment (cf. Mk 2: 21). To put the poor in first place means to decisively implement that kind of global solidarity that John Paul II had already indicated as necessary, uniting market potential with that of civil society (cf Message, 12), in constant respect for the law and always in view of the common good.

JESUS CHRIST DID NOT organize campaigns against poverty, but He proclaimed the Gospel to the poor, providing an integral redemption from moral and material misery. The Church does the same, with its tireless work of evangelization and of human advancement. Let us invoke the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, so that she may help all peoples to walk together on the Way of peace.