The Coming of Christ, the Coming of Peace
During this first meeting of the new year, the day after the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and the World Day of Peace, we want to thank God again for the countless blessings with which he enriches our life every day. At the same time, we continue our reflection on the great mystery of the Incarnation that we are currently celebrating and which constitutes a real turning point in the liturgical year.
Based on a phrase from John, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14), the doctrinal reflection of the Church has coined the word “incarnation” to point out the fact that the Son of God fully and completely took on a human nature as the means in which, and through which, he accomplished our salvation. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that faith in the true incarnation of the Son of God is the “distinct sign” of the Christian faith (No. 463).
This is what we profess, moreover, in the words of the NicenoConstantinopolitan Creed: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
God With Us
In the birth of the Son of God from Mary's virgin womb, Christians recognize Almighty God's infinite willingness to make himself available to man and to all of creation. Through the Incarnation, God came and visited his people: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David” (Luke 1:68-69). And God's visit is never ineffective: he frees us from affliction, gives us hope, and brings us salvation and joy.
The poor and the humble of heart, to whom God manifests himself, are usually more willing to recognize him and welcome him.
In the account of Jesus' birth, we see that the glad tidings of the coming of the long-awaited Savior were first announced to a group of poor shepherds, to which Luke refers in his Gospel: “An angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds” (Luke 2:9). In this way, St. Luke, whom we can call in a certain sense the “evangelist” of Christmas, wished to emphasize God's benevolence and kindness for the poor and the humble of heart, to whom he manifests himself and who are usually more willing to recognize him and welcome him.
The sign given to the shepherds, the manifestation of God's infinite majesty in a baby, is filled with hope and with promise: “This will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).
Such a message is immediately echoed in the humble and open hearts of the shepherds. For them, the word that the Lord has revealed to them is surely something real, an “event” (Luke 2:15). Without delay, they hasten to find the sign that was promised to them and they immediately become the first missionaries of the Gospel, announcing throughout the vicinity the good news of Jesus' birth.
Reconciliation and Peace
During the past few days we have heard once again the angels' song at Bethlehem: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). This song needs to ring out anew throughout the world at this time too — a world that is full of great hopes and extraordinary openness in every field, but which is also filled with much tension and great difficulties. Everyone needs to make a positive contribution so that humanity might proceed more quickly and more surely on the road to peace during the new year that has just begun.
This is why yesterday, the World Day of Peace, I chose to emphasize the link between peace, justice and forgiveness. Truly, “there is no peace without justice” and “there is no justice without forgiveness”! Therefore, a deep desire for reconciliation needs to grow within all of us, sustained by a sincere willingness to forgive. Throughout the year let us pray more forcefully and more insistently to obtain from God the gift of peace and brotherhood, especially in the more troubled areas of the planet.
Mary Our Model
So, let us confidently enter into the new year, imitating the faith and docility of Mary, who kept and pondered in her heart (Luke 2:19) all the wonderful things that were happening before her very eyes. God was bringing about through his only-begotten Son full and definitive salvation for all of humanity.
Let us contemplate the Virgin Mary as she welcomed Jesus in her arms, only to give him to all men. Like her, let us examine attentively and ponder in our hearts the marvelous things that God is doing every day in history. In this way we will learn to recognize in the course of daily life the constant intervention of divine Providence, who guides everything with wisdom and love.
Once again, Happy New Year to everyone!
- January 13-19, 2002