BETHLEHEM, West Bank, DEC. 25, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the homily delivered by Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem during Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
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“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9: 5)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Merry Christmas! I welcome all of you, and especially to President Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Prime Minister, Salam Fayad and his delegation: thank you for your presence among us.
Christmas is a feast for all the people of the Holy Land, and for all who bring about peace and reconciliation.
I greet the pilgrims who are among us here tonight, all the faithful of Palestine, Jordan and Israel, and every one with us through various communications media.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
For millennia, our ancestors in faith unceasingly prayed: “Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above, like gentle rain, let the skies drop it down. Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the LORD, have created this. ” (Is 45, 8)
All of creation are suffering and groaning, expecting the announcement of salvation. In the fullness of time, the promised Savior was born in the stable in Bethlehem. It was then that the angels announced the good news to simple shepherds watching their flocks, not far from here. To them they sang: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to men of good will. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Lk 2, 10-11)
This is really good news, because in the midst of many evils, we need to be saved! We need to be healed of all kinds of wounds, the source of our sufferings and of those around us.
The Child of Bethlehem was born in a cave: teaching us humility, meekness, simplicity, and innocence, that we often forget in a world marked by violence and desire for power. With His birth and His life, Jesus reminds us that: “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant” (Mt 20,26), and “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23,12)
This Divine Child was born into a loving family, which was an experience of love. The family is essential for life and proper human development. If the family is healthy, the entire society benefits. If not, the rifts among its members and disunity, have negative impact and consequences on the entire social order. Every family is called by Christ to follow the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Christmas presents us with the unique value of human life, a gift of God. Every child born or unborn, has a distinctive dignity and deserves the greatest respect, because it is created in the image of the Divine Child in the manger.
It is sad to note and heartbreaking to see that in our world millions of abortions are performed each year because of selfishness, hardness of hearts, ignorance, lack of preparation to accept and foster life, and the outright rejection of a life that begins from the first moment of conception.
It is painful to think that all these multiply our wounds and sufferings, even for those who commit such actions. We experience a deep suffering that destroys us to the core of our being. We need to understand the consequences of our actions, and turn to our God of mercy who comes to us in a Child, a Child born to us today.
We are also saddened that nearly 80% of the children in the world grow up in difficult living conditions and adverse situations. We especially think of the children in our Middle Eastern countries living below the poverty line. Many know and face precarious conditions in refugee camps, living in unsettling and tragic family situations, deprived of the love and affection of parents and relatives.
In a world torn apart by violence and fundamentalism, which legitimizes the worst actions, including killings in churches, the Child of Bethlehem reminds us that the first commandment is Love. He teaches us forgiveness and reconciliation, even with our enemies. “You have heard it said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust…” (Mt 5, 43-45)
Jesus is showing us the path of unity within our families, our communities, and our peoples. This teaching is also addressed to leaders of nations, who direct the fate and future of peoples and nations.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of the need for unity desired by Christ himself: “I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call.” (Eph 4: 1-4)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I would like to say a few words about the Synod for the Middle East held in Rome last October.
The Synod Fathers have written a Message to the People of God, and the recommendations we want to gradually put into practice. The major themes are: communion, fraternal charity, collaboration, openness, dialogue, and citizenship. Dialogue is a disposition of the heart which is essential at all levels, between the Catholic churches in the Middle East. This will involve a collaboration among patriarchs and also in interfaith and interreligious levels. This dialogue is imperative, it is the answer to modern atheism and fundamentalism that threaten the people of God. We recall the tragedy that struck the Christian community in Iraq. Such fanatic actions are universally condemned by Christians and Muslims.
The Message of the Synod calls for the intensification of dialogue with our Jewish and Muslim brothers. We need to unite and integrate the many values we have in common : prayer, piety, fasting, almsgiving, and ethical values.
Our hope for Christmas is that Jerusalem not only become the capital of two nations, but also a model for the world, of harmony and coexistence of the three monotheistic religions.
During this Christmas season, may the sound of the bells of our churches drown the noise of weapons in our wounded Middle East, calling all men to peace and the joy. A joy which radiates from every face, a rejoicing that penetrates every heart!
Let us pray together for peace: “Peace be upon Israel, Palestine, our people and throughout the Middle East, so that our children may live and grow in a peaceful and joyful environment.
Dear brothers and sisters, dear pilgrims, dear friends, the peace of the Divine Child in the grotto be with you all! Do not leave us alone in this difficult time and situation. Pray for us, we will do the same for you. Merry Christmas!