22 December 2009

The Mystery of Bethlehem

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI reflects on the birth of our Savior. He speaks of it as an “everlasting today” which “has come down into the fleeting today of the world.” Regardless of the conditions of our worldly “today,” our Lord has made it possible for us to live in an everlasting, peaceful “today”. Christ’s Light, Love and Truth has not been held prisoner in a moment of time but has spread through the centuries; and our Holy Father lists some examples of saints who have received our Savior’s gifts.

In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God Himself, God from God, became man. To Him the Father says: "You are My Son". God’s everlasting "today" has come down into the fleeting today of the world and lifted our momentary today into God’s eternal today. God is so great that He can become small. God is so powerful that He can make Himself vulnerable and come to us as a defenseless Child, so that we can love Him. God is so good that He can give up His divine splendor and come down to a stable, so that we might find Him, so that His goodness might touch us, give itself to us and continue to work through us. This is Christmas: "You are My Son, this day I have begotten You". God has become one of us, so that we can be with Him and become like Him. As a sign, He chose the Child lying in the manger: this is how God is. This is how we come to know Him. And on every child shines something of the splendor of that "today", of that closeness of God which we ought to love and to which we must yield -- it shines on every child, even on those still unborn.

Light means knowledge; it means truth, as contrasted with the darkness of falsehood and ignorance. Light gives us life, it shows us the way. But light, as a source of heat, also means love. Where there is love, light shines forth in the world; where there is hatred, the world remains in darkness. In the stable of Bethlehem there appeared the great Light which the world awaits. In that Child lying in the stable, God has shown His glory -- the glory of love, which gives itself away, stripping itself of all grandeur in order to guide us along the way of love. The Light of Bethlehem has never been extinguished. In every age it has touched men and women, "it has shone around them". Wherever people put their faith in that Child, charity also sprang up -- charity towards others, loving concern for the weak and the suffering, the grace of forgiveness. From Bethlehem a stream of Light, Love and Truth spreads through the centuries. If we look to the Saints -- from Paul and Augustine to Francis and Dominic, from Francis Xavier and Teresa of Avila to Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- we see this flood of goodness, this path of light kindled ever anew by the mystery of Bethlehem, by that God Who became a Child. In that Child, God countered the violence of this world with His own goodness. He calls us to follow that Child.

Among Christians, the word "peace" has taken on a very particular meaning: it has become a word to designate communion in the Eucharist. There Christ’s peace is present. In all the places where the Eucharist is celebrated, a great network of peace spreads through the world. The communities gathered around the Eucharist make up a kingdom of peace as wide as the world itself. When we celebrate the Eucharist we find ourselves in Bethlehem, in the "house of bread". Christ gives Himself to us and, in doing so, gives us His peace. He gives it to us so that we can carry the light of peace within and give it to others. He gives it to us so that we can become peacemakers and builders of peace in the world. And so we pray: Lord, fulfill your promise! Where there is conflict, give birth to peace! Where there is hatred, make love spring up! Where darkness prevails, let light shine! Make us heralds of your peace! Amen.