On the Lord's Return

«The ‘Nearness’ of God Is a Question of Love»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This third Sunday of Advent is called «Gaudete Sunday» — «Rejoice,» following the entrance antiphon of the Holy Mass that takes up St. Paul’s expression in his Letter to the Philippians, which says: «Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I tell you: Rejoice.»

Immediately afterward St. Paul explains why: «The Lord is near» (Philippians 4:4-5). This is the reason for joy. But what is meant by «The Lord is near»? How are we to understand this «nearness» of God? The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians of Philippi, is obviously thinking about Christ’s return, and he invites them to rejoice because this return is certain. Nevertheless, the same St. Paul, in his first Letter to the Thessalonians, warns that no one can know the moment of the Lord’s return (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2) and puts them on guard against all alarmism, as if the Lord’s return were imminent (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

Thus, already at that time, the Church, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, understood more and more that the «nearness» of God is not a question of space and time, but rather a question of love: Love is near! Christmas will come to remind us of this fundamental truth of our faith and, before the crèche, taste Christian joy, contemplating in the face of the newborn Jesus the God who drew near to us for love.

In light of this, it is a true pleasure for me to renew the tradition of the blessing of the «Bambinelli,» the statues of baby Jesus that will be placed in the manger. I especially turn to you, dear boys and girls of Rome, who have come with your «Bambinelli» this morning, which I will now bless. I invite you to join with me and attentively follow this prayer:

God, our Father,
you so loved men
to send us your only Son, Jesus,
born of the Virgin Mary,
to save us and to bring us back to you.

We pray to you, that with your blessing
these images of Jesus, who is about to come among us,
be, in our houses,
a sign of your presence and your love.

Good Father,
grant us also, our parents, our families and our friends,
your blessing.

Open our heart,
so that we know how to receive Jesus with joy,
do always what he asks
and see him in all those
who need our love.

We ask this in the name of Jesus,
your beloved Son, who came to bring peace to the world.
He who lives and reigns forever and ever.

And now let us recite together the «Angelus Domini,» calling upon the intercession of Mary, so that Jesus, who in his birth brings God’s benediction to men, be welcomed with love in all the homes of Rome and the world.

[After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the crowds in several languages. In Italian, he said:]

Today in the Diocese of Rome we celebrate the day for the building of new churches. There have been some new parish complexes built in recent years but there are still communities who gather in provisional and inadequate buildings. I thank from my heart those who have supported this crucial undertaking of the diocese and I renew the invitation to everyone: Let us help the parishes of Rome build their church.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic] [In English he said:]

I am happy to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present for today’s Angelus prayer. On this Third Sunday of Advent we are called to rejoice because the Lord is near. As we renew our hope in Jesus and look forward to his coming, may we experience in our lives the deep joy of his salvation. I wish you all a pleasant stay in Rome, and a blessed Sunday!

© Copyright 2008 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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