On Bethlehem, City-Symbol of Peace

«A Peace That Is Laboriously Sought and Awaited»

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 20, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the public address Benedict XVI gave today before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters!
With the 4th Sunday of Advent, the birth of the Lord is now before us. With the words of the prophet Micah, the liturgy invites us to look to Bethlehem, the little town of Judea that is witness to the great event: «And you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times» (Micah 5:1). One thousand years before Christ, Bethlehem had given birth to the great king David, whom the Scriptures concur in presenting as the ancestor of the Messiah. Luke’s Gospel says that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Joseph, the husband of Mary, being «of the house of David,» had to return there for the census, and it was then that Mary gave birth to Jesus (cf. Luke 2:1-7).

The same prophecy of Micah continues, noting a mysterious birth: «God will give them up,» he says «until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, And the rest of his brethren shall return to the children of Israel» (Micah 5:2). There is thus a divine plan that includes and explains the times and places of the coming of the Son of God into the world. It is a plan of peace, as the prophet proclaims, saying of the Messiah: «He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the Lord, in the majestic name of the Lord, his God. And they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth. He himself shall be peace!» (Micah 5:3).

Precisely this last aspect of the prophecy — that of the messianic peace — naturally brings us to note that Bethlehem is also a city-symbol of peace in the Holy Land and in the whole world. Unfortunately, Bethlehem does not represent an achieved and stable peace, but rather a peace that is laboriously sought and awaited.

God, however, never resigns himself to this state of affairs. So, once again this year in Bethlehem and in the entire world, he will renew in the Church the mystery of Christmas, the prophecy of peace for all mankind, which commits Christians to face the barriers, the crises, often unknown and hidden, and the conflicts of their lives, with the sentiments of Jesus, to become the instruments and messengers of peace everywhere, to bring love where there is hate, forgiveness where there is offense, joy where there is sadness, and truth where there is error, according to the beautiful expressions of a famous Franciscan prayer.

Today, as in the time of Jesus, Christmas is not a fairytale for children, but rather God’s answer to the drama of humanity in search of peace. «He himself will be peace!» the prophet says, referring to the Messiah. We are expected to throw open the doors to welcome him. Let us learn from Mary and Joseph: Let us put ourselves at the service of God’s plan with faith. Even if we do not fully understand it, let us entrust ourselves to his wisdom and goodness. Let us first seek the Kingdom of God and Providence will help us. Merry Christmas, everyone!

[After the Angelus, the Pope greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian, he said:]

I address a cordial greeting to the personnel of L’Osservatore Romano, who, during the Sundays and Wednesdays of the Christmas season, will set up a stand in St. Peter’s Square, where one can buy a copy of the newspaper with a little picture of the Nativity. I wish this initiative well. Besides making the Vatican-daily available, it will also help to build a school in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we are filled with joy because the Lord is at hand. We heard in today’s Gospel about Mary’s journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Just as Mary travelled through the hill country of Judah, to share with her kinswoman the joyful news of Christ’s coming, so too the Church is called to journey through history, proclaiming the wondrous message of salvation. As the great feast of Christmas draws near, I invoke God’s abundant blessings upon all of you, and upon your families and loved ones at home.

© Copyright 2009 — Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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