Christ Revealed That God Is Poor, Retreatants Told

Preacher at Spiritual Exercises Meditates on Bethlehem and Poverty

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2003 ( By being born in Bethlehem, Christ revealed to us that God is poor, because he has given himself totally to people, John Paul II and other retreatants heard.

Archbishop Angelo Comastri, the preacher of this week’s Spiritual Exercises at the Vatican, began a meditation today with a reflection on the most important moments in the life of Jesus.

«If Jesus’ words are like a portrait of the face of God — an extraordinary portrait as it has been drawn by Jesus himself — the authentic portrait of God, the authentic picture of God, is not Jesus’ words; it is Jesus’ life,» he said.

«Then, let us contemplate Jesus. Let us contemplate his actions, his behavior, because every gesture, every form of behavior of Jesus manifests God, recounts the mystery of God,» he said within earshot of the Pope and his aides in the Roman Curia. They were gathered in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

«And let us begin with Bethlehem, as it is God’s first step in history,» Archbishop Comastri continued. «It is the first step of the Word incarnate.»

«At Bethlehem, God entered history with the steps of a poor, humble and meek man. Why?» he asked. «Because God chose poverty? Because Jesus presented himself as poor — and the truth is he could not have been more poor!

«Mary, the Mother, the immaculate one, goes from Nazareth to Bethlehem and when they arrived, the Evangelist says, ‘there was no room for them.’ How is this possible? There is no place for the Son of God who is born in this world? He is the Creator of the world, and there is no place for him?»

The preacher said the «sign» the angel gave the shepherds to recognize the Savior was poverty: «You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.»

In reality, he added, the word used in the original instead of manger makes reference «to the interior of a cave in which there was hay and manure. How is this possible? We must meditate on this announcement of the angel, as it is also addressed to us.»

«Why does poverty form part of God’s manifestation?» the preacher asked. He cited a passage from First Letter of John, «God is love,» and said that it means there «is gift,» because «only where there is love, is there a gift. … God is the infinite gift of self.»

«But whoever gives does not give because he possesses,» the archbishop said. «The mystery of God is a mystery of giving. In God, the only verb conjugated is ‘to give’: The Father gives himself to the Son and the Son is the gift of the Father, and he gives himself back to the Father in the embrace of the Holy Spirit who is the ‘Person-Gift.'»

«This is the mystery of God, something so impressive that it causes vertigo,» he said. «God knows only one action, the action of giving.

«And given that the one who gives does not possess, whoever does not possess is poor. God, who is infinite love, the infinite gift, is also the infinitely poor.» The retreat ends Saturday.

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