Saturday, January 4, 2014

Reflections on the Second Sunday of Christmas
by Pope Benedict XVI

Entry 0322: Reflections on the Second Sunday of Christmas 
Pope Benedict XVI 

On three occasions during his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Second Sunday of Christmas, on 4 January 2009, 3 January 2010, and 2 January 2011. Here are the three brief reflections he delivered on these occasions prior to the recitation of the Angelus.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 January 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today the liturgy proposes anew for our meditation the same Gospel as that proclaimed on Christmas Day: the Prologue of St John. After the commotion of the recent days with the race to purchase gifts, the Church invites us once again to contemplate the mystery of Christ’s Nativity, to understand even better its profound meaning and importance to our lives. This is a wonderful text that offers an impressive synthesis of the whole of the Christian faith. It starts from on high: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” (Jn 1: 1); and this is the unheard of and humanly inconceivable news: “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1: 14a). It is not a rhetorical figure but a lived experience! And it is John, an eyewitness, who tells of it. “We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father... full of grace and truth” (Jn 1: 14). These are not the learned words of a rabbi or doctor of law but rather the passionate witness of a humble fisherman. Attracted in his youth by Jesus of Nazareth, in the three years he spent living with him and with the other Apostles, John experienced his love, to the extent that he called himself “the disciple Jesus loved” saw him die on the Cross and appear Risen, and then with the others received his Spirit. From his heart’s meditation on the whole of this experience, John drew a deep conviction: Jesus is the Wisdom of God incarnate, he is his eternal Word who became a mortal man.

For a true Israelite who knows the Sacred Scriptures, this is not a contradiction; on the contrary, it is the fulfilment of the whole of the old Covenant. The mystery of a God who speaks to men and women as his friends, who reveals himself to Moses in the Law, to the wise and the prophets, reaches fulfilment in Christ. In knowing Jesus, in being with him, hearing his preaching and seeing the signs he performed, the disciples recognized that all the Scriptures were fulfilled in him. As a Christian author was later to affirm: “The whole of divine Scripture constitutes one book and this one book is Christ, it speaks of Christ and finds its fulfilment in Christ” (see Ugo di San Vittore, De arca Noe, 2, 8). Every man and every woman needs to find a profound meaning for their life. And this is why books do not suffice, not even the Sacred Scriptures. The Child of Bethlehem reveals and communicates to us the true “Face” of a good and faithful God, who loves us and even in death does not abandon us. “No one has ever seen God,” concludes John’s Prologue; “the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known” (Jn 1: 18).

The first to open her heart and to contemplate “the Word who became flesh” was Mary, Mother of Jesus. A humble girl from Galilee, she thus became the “Seat of Wisdom”! Like the Apostle John, each one of us is invited to “[take] her to his own home” (Jn 19: 27), to know Jesus deeply and to experience his faithful and inexhaustible love. And this is my wish for each one of you, dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of this new year.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 3 January 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Sunday the second after Christmas and the first of the New Year I am glad to renew to all my wishes for every good in the Lord! Problems are not lacking in the Church and in the world, as well as in the daily life of families, but thanks be to God our hope is not based on improbable predictions or financial forecasts, however important these may be. Our hope is in God, not in the sense of a generic religiosity or a fatalism cloaked in faith. We trust in God who revealed completely and definitively in Jesus Christ his desire to be with human beings, to share in our history, to guide us all to his Kingdom of love and life. And this great hope enlivens and at times corrects our human hopes.

Three extraordinarily rich biblical Readings speak to us today of this revelation: chapter 24 of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, the opening hymn of St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians and the Prologue of John’s Gospel. These texts affirm that God is not only the Creator of the universe an aspect common to other religions too but that he is the Father who “chose us in him before the foundation of the world.... He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1: 4-5), and that for this reason he even, inconceivably, went so far as to make himself man: “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us” (Jn 1: 14). The mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God was prepared in the Old Testament, in particular where divine Wisdom is identified with the Mosaic Law. Wisdom herself says: “The Creator of all things... assigned a place for my tent. And he said: “Make your dwelling in Jacob, and in Israel receive your inheritance’” (Sir 24: 8). In Jesus Christ the Law of God became a living testimony, written in the heart of a man in whom, through the action of the Holy Spirit the fullness of deity resides in bodily form (see Col 2: 9).

Dear friends, this is the true reason for humanity’s hope: history has meaning because it is “inhabited” by the Wisdom of God. And yet the divine plan is not automatically implemented because it is a plan of love, and love generates freedom and requires freedom. The Kingdom of God certainly comes, indeed it is already present in history and thanks to Christ’s coming has already conquered the negative power of the Evil One. However, all men and women are responsible for welcoming him into their own lives, day after day. Therefore even the year 2010 will be “good” to the extent that each of us, according to his or her own responsibilities, can work with God’s grace. Thus let us turn to the Virgin Mary to learn this spiritual disposition from her. The Son of God did not take flesh from her without her consent. Every time the Lord wants to take a step forward with us toward the “promised land”, he first knocks at our hearts. He waits, so to speak, for our “yes”, in small decisions as in important ones. May Mary help us always to accept God’s will with humility and courage, so that the trials and suffering of life may help to hasten the coming of his Kingdom of justice and peace.



St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 2 January 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I renew to you all my good wishes for the New Year and I thank all those who have sent me messages of spiritual closeness.

This Sunday’s Liturgy proposes anew the Prologue of the Gospel according to St John, solemnly proclaimed on Christmas Day. This wonderful text expresses the mystery of the Incarnation, preached by eyewitnesses, the Apostles, and in particular by John whose feast — not by chance — is celebrated on 27 December.

St Chromatius of Aquileia said that “John was the youngest of all the Lord’s disciples; the youngest in age, but already old in faith” (Sermo II, 1 De Sancto Iohanne Evangelista, CCL 9a, 101).

When we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1), the Evangelist, traditionally compared with an eagle — soars above human history, scrutinizing God’s depths; but very soon, following his Teacher, he returns to the earthly dimension, saying: “and the Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14).

The Word is “a living reality: a God who... communicates himself by making himself man (J. Ratzinger, Teologia della liturgia, LEV, 209 10, 618). In fact, John testifies that he “dwelt among us” and “we have beheld his glory” (Jn 1:14).

“He lowered himself to assume the humility of our condition”, St Leo the Great comments, “without this diminishing his majesty” (Tractatus XXI, 2, CCL 138, 86-87).

Further, we read in the Prologue: “From his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace” (Jn 1:16). “What is the first grace that we have received?” St Augustine asks and answers, “it is faith”. The second grace, he immediately adds, is “eternal life” (In evangelium Johannis tractatus III, 8.9, CCL 36, 24.25).

I now address in Spanish the thousands of families meeting in Madrid for an important demonstration. I greet with affection the many Pastors and faithful who are gathered in Plaza de Colón, Madrid, in order to celebrate joyfully the value of marriage and the family, on the theme: “The Christian family, hope for Europe”.

Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to be strong in love and to contemplate with humility the Mystery of Christmas that continues to speak to the heart and to become a school of family and fraternal life. The motherly gaze of the Virgin Mary, the loving protection of St Joseph and the sweet presence of the Baby Jesus are a clear image of what every Christian family must be: an authentic sanctuary of fidelity, respect and understanding in which faith is passed on, hope is strengthened and love is kindled.

I encourage one and all to live the Christian vocation in your homes with renewed enthusiasm, as genuine servants of the love that welcomes, accompanies and protects life. Make your home a real nursery of virtues and a serene and luminous place of trust, in which, guided by God’s grace, it is possible to discern wisely the call of the Lord who continues to invite people to follow him.

With these sentiments I fervently commend to the Holy Family of Nazareth the resolutions and fruit of this meeting, so that there may be an increasing number of families in which joy, mutual giving and generosity hold sway. May God always bless you. Let us ask the Virgin Mary, whom the Lord entrusted as Mother to “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, for the strength to behave as children “who were born ... of God” (see Jn 1:13), accepting one another and thereby expressing brotherly love. 

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