Pope Cautions Against Apocalyptic Alarm

Says With Christ’s Coming, It Is Love That Is Near

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 14, 2008 (Zenit.org).- From the beginning of Christianity, the Church has been encouraging the faithful to await Christ’s return with tranquility, not with a spirit of alarm, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today when he addressed the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray the midday Angelus.

The Holy Father recalled that today, the third Sunday of Advent, is called «Gaudete» or «Rejoice» Sunday, «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.'»

He noted that St. Paul immediately explains why there should be rejoicing: «‘The Lord is near.’ 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 Pontiff said that Paul was «obviously thinking about Christ’s return, and he invites [the Christians of Philippi] 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 and puts them on guard against all alarmism, as if the Lord’s return were imminent.»

Thus, the Bishop of Rome affirmed, the Church already then, «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,» he concluded, «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.»

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