Benedict XVI Homilies 11121
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“The earth has yielded its increase” (Ps 67,6 :6). The Fathers of the Church recognized in this image, taken from the Psalm we just heard and which invites all the peoples and nations to praise the Lord with joy, the Virgin Mary and of Christ, her Son: “The earth is Mary Most Holy, who comes from our earth, our lineage, from this clay, from this mud, from Adam. The earth has yielded its fruit: it first produced a flower ... this flower then became a fruit so that we might eat it so that we might eat its flesh. Would you like to know what this fruit is? It is the Virgin Son who proceeds from the Virgin Mother; the Lord from the handmaid; God from man; the Son from the Mother; the fruit from the earth” (St Jerome, Breviarum in Psalm. 66: PL, 1010-1011). Today, exulting over the fruit of this earth, we too are saying: “Let the peoples praise thee, O God” (Ps 67,4 :4). We proclaim the gift of redemption gained by Christ and, in Christ, we acknowledge his power and divine majesty.
Moved by these sentiments, I greet fraternally the Cardinals and Bishops who are with us, the various diplomatic representatives, the priests and men and women religious, as well as the faithful gathered here in St Peter’s Basilica to celebrate with joy the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother and Star of the Evangelization of America. I also remember all those who have joined us in spirit and are praying to God with us for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, many of whom are celebrating the bicentenary of their Independence at this time and, going beyond the historical, social and political aspects of these events, are expressing anew to the Most High their gratitude for the great gift of faith they received, a faith that proclaims the redemptive mystery of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that all the peoples of the earth may have life in Him. The Successor of Peter could not let this occasion pass without expressing the Church’s joy in the many gifts which God, in his infinite kindness, has in these years poured out upon these beloved nations, who so affectionately invoke Mary Most Holy.
The venerated image of the Black Madonna of Tepeyac, with her sweet and peaceful countenance, imprinted on the tilma of the indio St Juan Diego, shows her as “the ever Virgin Mary, Mother of the True God from whom she lives” (From the Office of Readings. Nicán Mopohua, 12th ed., Mexico City, D.F., 1971, 3-19). She reminds us of the “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child” (Ap 12,1-2). She signals the presence of the Saviour to the indigenous and mestizo population. She always leads us to her divine Son, who is revealed as the foundation of the dignity of every human being, as a love that is stronger than the powers of evil and death, and the fountain of joy, filial trust, consolation and hope.
The Magnificat that we proclaimed in the Gospel “is the song both of the Mother of God and of the Church; the song of the Daughter of Zion and of the new People of God; the song of thanksgiving for the fullness of graces poured out in the economy of salvation and the song of the ‘poor’ whose hope is met by the fulfillment of the promises made to our ancestors” (Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 2619). In an act of gratitude to her Lord and of the humility of his handmaid the Virgin Mary praises God for all that he is doing on behalf of his people Israel. God is the One who deserves all honour and glory, the Mighty One who does marvels for his faithful servant and today continues to show his love to all men and women, especially those who are facing difficult trials.
“Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass” (Za 9,9), we heard in the First Reading. Since the Incarnation of the Word, the divine Mystery is revealed in Jesus Christ, who is the contemporary of every human person in every time and place through the Church, whose Mother and model is Mary. Therefore, today we can continue praising God for the wonders he has worked in the life of the people of Latin America and the whole world, revealing his presence in the Son and the outpouring of his Spirit as the newness of personal and community life. God has hidden these things from the “wise and learned”, letting them be known to the humble and simple of heart (cf. Mt 11,25).
By her “yes” to God’s call, the Virgin Mary manifested divine love among men. In this sense she, with her simplicity and maternal heart, continues to indicate the one Light and the one Truth: her Son, Jesus Christ, who is “the definitive answer to the question of the meaning of life, and to those fundamental questions which still trouble so many men and women on the American continent” (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America ). Similarly, “by her manifold intercession (she) continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home” (Lumen Gentium LG 62).
At this time, as various parts of Latin America are commemorating the bicentenary of their Independence, the process of integration in this beloved continent is progressing, while at the same time it is playing a new role on the world scene. In these circumstances it is important that its diverse people can safeguard the rich treasure of faith and their historical-cultural dynamism, always being the defenders of human life from conception to natural end and promoters of peace; they must likewise care for the family in this genuine nature and mission, at the same time intensifying a vast grass-roots educational campaign that correctly prepares individuals and makes them aware of their capacities in such a way that they can face their destiny with responsibility and dignity. They are likewise called to foster ever more proven initiatives and effective programmes that promote reconciliation and fraternity, increase solidarity and care for the environment, at the same time intensifying efforts to overcome poverty, illiteracy and corruption, and to eradicate every form of injustice, violence, criminality, civic unrest, drug trafficking and extortion.
When the Church was preparing to recall the fifth centenary of the planting of the Cross of Christ in the good soil of the American Continent, on that same soil Bl. John Paul II formulated for the first time a programme for a new evangelization, new “in its ardour, in its methods, in its expression” (cf. Address to the CELAM Assembly, 9 March 1983, III: AAS 75, 1983, 778). Because of my responsibility of confirming in the faith, I also want to encourage the apostolic zeal that is now motivating and driving the “continental mission” promoted in Aparecida, so that “Christian faith may become more deeply rooted in the heart of Latin American individuals and peoples as founding event and living encounter with Christ” (Fifth General Conference of the Council of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean, Final Document, n. 13). Thus there will be a multiplication of genuine disciples and missionaries of the Lord and a renewal of Latin America and the Caribbean’s vocation to hope. May the light of God shine more and more on the face of each of the sons and daughters of this beloved land and may his redemptive grace guide their decisions so that they may continue progressing untiringly in the building of a society founded upon the development of the good, the triumph of love and the spread of justice. With these fervent desires and sustained by the help of Divine Providence, I intend to undertake an Apostolic Journey to Mexico and Cuba before Easter, to proclaim there the Word of Christ and support the conviction that this is a precious time to evangelize with a true faith, a living hope and an ardent charity.
I commend to the loving mediation of Our Lady of Guadalupe, our heavenly Mother all these intentions and the present situation of the Latin American and Caribbean nations and their progress towards a better future. I likewise invoke upon them the intercession of the many saints and blesseds that the Spirit has raised up throughout the length and breadth of the history of this continent, offering heroic models of Christian virtue in diverse states of life and social milieu, that their example may promote more and more a new evangelization under the gaze of Christ, Saviour of man and strength of our soul. Amen.
“Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord” (Jc 5,7).
With these words the Apostle James points out to us the inner attitude for preparing ourselves to hear and welcome once again the proclamation of the Redeemer’s birth in the Bethlehem Grotto, an ineffable mystery of light, love and grace. I address my greeting to you with affection, dear university students of Rome whom I have the joy of meeting at this traditional event. I welcome you in the proximity of Holy Christmas with your aspirations, your expectations and your worries; and I also greet the academic communities that you represent. I thank Prof. Massimo Egidi, Rector Magnificent, for his courteous words to me on behalf of you all and in which he has highlighted the sensitive role of the university professor. I greet with warm cordiality Prof. Francesco Profumo, Minister for Education, University and Research, and the academic authorities of the various athenaeums.
Dear friends, St James urges his brethren to imitate the farmer who “waits for the precious fruit of the earth” (Jc 5,7). To you who live in the heart of the cultural and social environment of our time, who are experiencing the new and ever more refined technologies and who are protagonists of a dynamism in history that at times seems overwhelming, the Apostle’s invitation may seem anachronistic or as it were an invitation to leave history, not to want to see the results of your work, of your research. But is this really so? Is God’s invitation to wait really untimely? And we might ask ourselves even more radically: what does Christmas mean for me? Is it really important for my existence, for building society? There are many people in our time, especially among those you meet in university lecture halls, who voice the question of whether we should await something or someone; whether we should await another messiah, another god; whether it is worth trusting in that Child whom we shall find on Christmas Night in the manger between Mary and Joseph?
The Apostle’s exhortation to patient perseverance, which in our time might leave us somewhat perplexed, is in fact the way to accept the question of God in depth, the meaning he has in life and in history, because it is actually by patience, fidelity and constancy in seeking God and openness to him that he reveals his Face. We do not need a generic, indefinite god but rather the living, true God who unfolds the horizon of man’s future to a prospect of firm, well-founded hope, a hope rich in eternity that enables us to face the present courageously in all its aspects. Then, however, we should ask ourselves “where can my search find the true Face of this God?”. Or better still, “where does God himself come to meet me, showing me his Face, revealing his mystery to me, entering my life?”.
Dear friends, St James’ invitation: “be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord”, reminds us that the certainty of the world’s great hope is given to us, that we are not alone and that we do not build history by ourselves. God is not distant from man but reached down to him and became flesh (Jn 1,14) so that man might understand where the solid foundation of all things, the fulfilment of his deepest yearnings lies: in Christ (cf. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 10). Patience is a virtue of those who entrust themselves to this presence in history, who do not allow themselves to succumb to the temptation to put all their hope in the immediate, in a purely horizontal perspective or in projects that are technically perfect but far from the most profound reality, the one that gives the human person the loftiest dignity: the transcendent dimension, that of being a creature in the image and likeness of God and of carrying in our heart the desire to rise him.
However, there is another aspect I would like to emphasize this evening. St James has told us: “Behold, the farmer waits [for the precious fruit of the earth] being patient over it” (Jc 5,7). God, in the Incarnation of the Word, in the incarnation of his Son, experienced the time of human beings, their growth, their action in history. That Child is the sign of the patience of God who is first patient, constant and faithful to his love for us; he is the true “farmer” of history who knows how to wait. How often have men and women tried to build the world by themselves, without or in opposition to God! The result is marked by the drama of ideologies which, in the end, have proven to be against man and his profound dignity. Patient perseverance in building history, both at the personal and community levels, is not identified with the traditional virtue of prudence — which one certainly needs — but is something greater and more complex. Being persevering and patient means learning to build history together with God, because it is only by building on him and with him that the construction is firmly founded, not exploited for ideological ends but truly worthy of the human being.
This evening, therefore, let us rekindle an even brighter hope in our hearts, because the word of God reminds us that the coming of the Lord is at hand, indeed, that the Lord is with us and that we can build with him. In the Bethlehem Grotto human loneliness is overcome, our existence is no longer left to the impersonal forces of natural and historical processes, our house can be built on the rock: we can plan our history, the history of humanity, not in Utopia but in the certainty that the God of Jesus Christ is present and goes with us.
Dear university friends, let us run joyfully towards Bethlehem, let us welcome in our arms the Child that Mary and Joseph will present to us. Let us start out from him and with him, facing all the difficulties. The Lord asks each one of you to cooperate in building the city of man, seriously and enthusiastically conjugating faith and culture. For this reason I invite you to seek always, with patient perseverance, the true Face of God, helped by the pastoral journey that is proposed to you during this academic year. Seeking the Face of God is the profound aspiration of our heart and is also the answer to the fundamental question that continues to surface ever anew in contemporary society. Dear university friends, you know that the Church of Rome is close to you, with the wise and caring guidance of the Cardinal Vicar and of your chaplains. Let us thank the Lord because, as has been mentioned, 20 years ago Bl. John Paul II set up the Office for University Ministry at the service of the academic community of Rome. The work it has done has encouraged the creation and development of chaplaincies and has reached the point of being a well-organized network, where the formative proposals of the different athenaeums — of the State, private, Catholic and Pontifical — can contribute to elaborating a culture at the service of the human person’s integral growth. At the end of this Liturgy the Spanish University Delegation will consign the Sedes Sapientiae Icon to the Delegation from La Sapienza University of Rome. This will mark the beginning of the Marian peregrinatio to the chaplaincies, which I will accompany with my prayer. Be assured that the Pope trusts in you and your faithful testimony and apostolic commitment.
Dear friends, let us hasten confidently together this evening on the journey to Bethlehem, taking the expectations and hopes of our brethren with us so that all may encounter the Word of life and entrust themselves to him. This is my hope that I address to Rome’s academic community: take to everyone the proclamation that the true Face of God is in the Child of Bethlehem, so close to each one of us that it is impossible for anyone to feel excluded, no one must doubt in the possibility of the encounter for he is the patient and faithful God, who knows how to wait and how to respect our freedom.
This evening let us profess with trust the deepest aspiration of our heart: “Your face, Lord, do I seek. Come, do not delay”. Amen.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus that we have just heard begins solemnly with the word “apparuit”, which then comes back again in the reading at the Dawn Mass: apparuit – “there has appeared”. This is a programmatic word, by which the Church seeks to express synthetically the essence of Christmas. Formerly, people had spoken of God and formed human images of him in all sorts of different ways. God himself had spoken in many and various ways to mankind (cf. He 1,1 – Mass during the Day). But now something new has happened: he has appeared. He has revealed himself. He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which he dwells. He himself has come into our midst. This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is he merely an idea, no longer do we have to form a picture of him on the basis of mere words. He has “appeared”. But now we ask: how has he appeared? Who is he in reality? The reading at the Dawn Mass goes on to say: “the kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed” (Tt 3,4). For the people of pre-Christian times, whose response to the terrors and contradictions of the world was to fear that God himself might not be good either, that he too might well be cruel and arbitrary, this was a real “epiphany”, the great light that has appeared to us: God is pure goodness. Today too, people who are no longer able to recognize God through faith are asking whether the ultimate power that underpins and sustains the world is truly good, or whether evil is just as powerful and primordial as the good and the beautiful which we encounter in radiant moments in our world. “The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed”: this is the new, consoling certainty that is granted to us at Christmas.
In all three Christmas Masses, the liturgy quotes a passage from the Prophet Isaiah, which describes the epiphany that took place at Christmas in greater detail: “A child is born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace. Wide is his dominion in a peace that has no end” (Is 9,5f.). Whether the prophet had a particular child in mind, born during his own period of history, we do not know. But it seems impossible. This is the only text in the Old Testament in which it is said of a child, of a human being: his name will be Mighty-God, Eternal-Father. We are presented with a vision that extends far beyond the historical moment into the mysterious, into the future. A child, in all its weakness, is Mighty God. A child, in all its neediness and dependence, is Eternal Father. And his peace “has no end”. The prophet had previously described the child as “a great light” and had said of the peace he would usher in that the rod of the oppressor, the footgear of battle, every cloak rolled in blood would be burned (Is 9,1).
God has appeared – as a child. It is in this guise that he pits himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace. At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors’ rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord: O mighty God, you have appeared as a child and you have revealed yourself to us as the One who loves us, the One through whom love will triumph. And you have shown us that we must be peacemakers with you. We love your childish estate, your powerlessness, but we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: manifest your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors’ rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph in this world of ours.
Christmas is an epiphany – the appearing of God and of his great light in a child that is born for us. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in the palaces of kings. In 1223, when Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas in Greccio with an ox and an ass and a manger full of hay, a new dimension of the mystery of Christmas came to light. Saint Francis of Assisi called Christmas “the feast of feasts” – above all other feasts – and he celebrated it with “unutterable devotion” (2 Celano 199; Fonti Francescane, 787). He kissed images of the Christ-child with great devotion and he stammered tender words such as children say, so Thomas of Celano tells us (ibid.). For the early Church, the feast of feasts was Easter: in the Resurrection Christ had flung open the doors of death and in so doing had radically changed the world: he had made a place for man in God himself. Now, Francis neither changed nor intended to change this objective order of precedence among the feasts, the inner structure of the faith centred on the Paschal Mystery. And yet through him and the character of his faith, something new took place: Francis discovered Jesus’ humanity in an entirely new depth. This human existence of God became most visible to him at the moment when God’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. The Resurrection presupposes the Incarnation. For God’s Son to take the form of a child, a truly human child, made a profound impression on the heart of the Saint of Assisi, transforming faith into love. “The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed” – this phrase of Saint Paul now acquired an entirely new depth. In the child born in the stable at Bethlehem, we can as it were touch and caress God. And so the liturgical year acquired a second focus in a feast that is above all a feast of the heart.
This has nothing to do with sentimentality. It is right here, in this new experience of the reality of Jesus’ humanity that the great mystery of faith is revealed. Francis loved the child Jesus, because for him it was in this childish estate that God’s humility shone forth. God became poor. His Son was born in the poverty of the stable. In the child Jesus, God made himself dependent, in need of human love, he put himself in the position of asking for human love – our love. Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.
Francis arranged for Mass to be celebrated on the manger that stood between the ox and the ass (cf. 1 Celano 85; Fonti 469). Later, an altar was built over this manger, so that where animals had once fed on hay, men could now receive the flesh of the spotless lamb Jesus Christ, for the salvation of soul and body, as Thomas of Celano tells us (cf. 1 Celano 87; Fonti 471). Francis himself, as a deacon, had sung the Christmas Gospel on the holy night in Greccio with resounding voice. Through the friars’ radiant Christmas singing, the whole celebration seemed to be a great outburst of joy (1 Celano 85.86; Fonti 469, 470). It was the encounter with God’s humility that caused this joy – his goodness creates the true feast.
Today, anyone wishing to enter the Church of Jesus’ Nativity in Bethlehem will find that the doorway five and a half metres high, through which emperors and caliphs used to enter the building, is now largely walled up. Only a low opening of one and a half metres has remained. The intention was probably to provide the church with better protection from attack, but above all to prevent people from entering God’s house on horseback. Anyone wishing to enter the place of Jesus’ birth has to bend down. It seems to me that a deeper truth is revealed here, which should touch our hearts on this holy night: if we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis – the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see. We must bend down, spiritually we must as it were go on foot, in order to pass through the portal of faith and encounter the God who is so different from our prejudices and opinions – the God who conceals himself in the humility of a newborn baby. In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped. Let us allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart. And let us also pray especially at this hour for all who have to celebrate Christmas in poverty, in suffering, as migrants, that a ray of God’s kindness may shine upon them, that they – and we – may be touched by the kindness that God chose to bring into the world through the birth of his Son in a stable. Amen.
Brother Bishops and Priests,
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
We have come together in the Vatican Basilica to celebrate First Vespers of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and to give thanks to the Lord at the end of the year by singing the Te Deum together. I thank all of you for choosing to join me for this occasion that is always so poignant and significant. In the first place I greet the Cardinals, my brother Bishops and Priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and members of the lay faithful representing the entire ecclesial community of Rome. In a particular way I greet the Authorities present, beginning with the Mayor of Rome, and I thank him for the gift of a chalice, a gift that is renewed every year, in accordance with a fine tradition. I hope and pray that all will remain committed to making this City ever more in tune with the values of faith, culture and civilization that form an integral part of its vocation and its thousands of years of history.
Another year is drawing to a close, as we await the start of a new one: with some trepidation, with our perennial desires and expectations. Reflecting on our life experience, we are continually astonished by how ultimately short and ephemeral life is. So we often find ourselves asking: what meaning can we give to our days? What meaning, in particular, can we give to the days of toil and grief? This is a question that permeates history, indeed it runs through the heart of every generation and every individual. But there is an answer: it is written on the face of a Child who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, and is today the Living One, risen for ever from the dead. From within the fabric of humanity, rent asunder by so much injustice, wickedness and violence, there bursts forth in an unforeseen way the joyful and liberating novelty of Christ our Saviour, who leads us to contemplate the goodness and tenderness of God through the mystery of his Incarnation and Birth. The everlasting God has entered our history and he remains present in a unique way in the person of Jesus, his incarnate Son, our Saviour, who came down to earth to renew humanity radically and to free us from sin and death, to raise us to the dignity of God’s children. Christmas not only recalls the historical fulfilment of this truth that concerns us directly, but in a mysterious and real way, gives it to us afresh.
How evocative it is, at this close of a year, to listen again to the joyful message addressed by Saint Paul to the Christians of Galatia: “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Ga 4,4-5). These words penetrate the heart of the history of us all and illumine it, or rather, they save it, because since the Day of the Lord’s Nativity, the fullness of time has reached us. So there is no more room for anxiety in the face of time that passes, never to return; now there is room for unlimited trust in God, by whom we know we are loved, for whom we live and to whom our life is directed as we await his definitive return. Since the Saviour came down from heaven, man has ceased to be the slave of time that passes to no avail, marked by toil, sadness and pain. Man is son of a God who has entered time so as to redeem it from meaninglessness and negativity, a God who has redeemed all humanity, giving it everlasting love as a new perspective of life.
The Church lives and professes this truth and intends to proclaim it today with fresh spiritual vigour. In tonight’s celebration we have special reasons to praise God for his mystery of salvation, active in the world through the ministry of the Church. We have so many reasons to thank the Lord for what our ecclesial community, at the heart of the universal Church, is accomplishing in the service of the Gospel in this City. In that regard, together with the Vicar General, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Auxiliary Bishops, parish priests and the whole diocesan presbyterate, I would like to thank the Lord especially for the promising communal project aimed at tayloring day-to-day pastoral work to the demands of our time, through the programme “Belonging to the Church and Pastoral Co-responsibility”. The aim is give first priority to evangelization, so as to make the participation of the faithful in the sacraments more responsible and more fruitful, so that every person can speak of God to modern man and proclaim the Gospel incisively to those who have never known it or have forgotten it.
In the Diocese of Rome, as elsewhere, the most urgent pastoral challenge facing us is the quaestio fidei. Christ’s disciples are called to reawaken in themselves and in others the longing for God and the joy of living him and bearing witness to him, on the basis of what is always a deeply personal question: why do I believe? We must give primacy to truth, seeing the combination of faith and reason as two wings with which the human spirit can rise to the contemplation of the Truth (cf. Fides et Ratio, Prologue FR 1); we must ensure that the dialogue between Christianity and modern culture bears fruit; we must see to it that the beauty and contemporary relevance of the faith is rediscovered, not as an isolated event, affecting some particular moment in our lives, but as a constant orientation, affecting even the simplest choices, establishing a profound unity within the person, so that he becomes just, hard-working, generous and good. What is needed is to give new life to a faith that can serve as a basis for a new humanism, one that is able to generate culture and social commitment.
Within this framework, at the Diocesan Conference held last June, the Diocese of Rome launched a programme which sets out to explore more deeply the meaning of Christian initiation and the joy of bringing new Christians into the faith. To proclaim faith in the Word made flesh is, after all, at the heart of the Church’s mission, and the entire ecclesial community needs to rediscover this indispensable task with renewed missionary zeal. Young generations have an especially keen sense of the present disorientation, magnified by the crisis in economic affairs which is also a crisis of values, and so they in particular need to recognize in Jesus Christ “the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history” (Gaudium et Spes GS 10).
Parents are the first educators in faith of their children, starting from a most tender age, and families must therefore be supported in their educational mission by appropriate initiatives. At the same time it is desirable that the baptismal journey, the first stage along the formative path of Christian initiation, in addition to fostering conscious and worthy preparation for the celebration of the Sacrament, should devote adequate attention to the years following Baptism, with appropriate programmes that take account of the life conditions that families must address. I therefore encourage parish communities and other ecclesial groupings to engage in continuing reflection on ways to promote a better understanding and reception of the sacraments, by which man comes to share in the very life of God. May the Church of Rome have no shortage of lay faithful who are ready to make their own contribution to building living communities that allow the Word of God to burst forth in the hearts of those who have not yet known the Lord or have moved away from him. At the same time, it is appropriate to create opportunities to encounter the City, giving rise to fruitful dialogue with those who are searching for Truth.
Dear friends, ever since God sent his only-begotten Son, so that we might obtain adoptive sonship (cf. Ga 4,5), we can have no greater task than to be totally at the service of God’s plan. And so I would like to encourage and thank all the faithful from the Diocese of Rome who feel a responsibility to restore our society’s soul. Thank you, Roman families, the first and fundamental cells of society! Thank you, members of the many Communities, Associations and Movements that are committed to animating the Christian life of our City.
Te Deum laudamus! We praise you, O God! The Church suggests that we should not end the year without expressing our thanks to the Lord for all his benefits. It is in God that our last hour must come to a close, the last hour of time and history. To overlook this goal of our lives would be to fall into the void, to live without meaning. Hence the Church places on our lips the ancient hymn Te Deum. It is a hymn filled with the wisdom of many Christian generations, who feel the need to address on high their heart’s desires, knowing that all of us are in the Lord’s merciful hands.
Te Deum laudamus! This is also the song of the Church in Rome, for the wonders that God has worked and continues to work in her. With hearts full of thanksgiving, let us prepare to cross the threshold of 2012, remembering that the Lord is watching over us and guarding us. To him this evening we wish to entrust the whole world. Let us place in his hands the tragedies of this world and let us also offer him our hopes for a brighter future. And let us place these prayers in the hands of Mary, Mother of God, Salus Populi Romani. Amen.
Benedict XVI Homilies 11121