"The grace of God our Saviour has appeared to all"
(Tit 2:11, Vulg.)
Dear brothers and sisters, in the words of
the Apostle Paul, I once more joyfully proclaim Christ´s Birth.
Today "the grace of God our Saviour" has truly "appeared
It appeared! This is what the Church celebrates today.
The grace of God, rich in goodness and love, is
no longer hidden. It "appeared", it was manifested in the
flesh, it showed its face. Where? In Bethlehem. When? Under
Caesar Augustus, during the first census, which the Evangelist Luke
also mentions. And who is the One who reveals it?
A newborn Child, the Son of the Virgin Mary. In
him the grace of God our Saviour has appeared. And
so that Child is called Jehoshua, Jesus, which means: "God
The grace of God has appeared. That is why Christmas
is a feast of light. Not like the full daylight
which illumines everything, but a glimmer beginning in the night
and spreading out from a precise point in the universe:
from the stable of Bethlehem, where the divine Child was
born. Indeed, he is the light itself, which begins to
radiate, as portrayed in so many paintings of the Nativity.
He is the light whose appearance breaks through the gloom,
dispels the darkness and enables us to understand the meaning
and the value of our own lives and of all
history. Every Christmas crib is a simple yet eloquent invitation
to open our hearts and minds to the mystery of
life. It is an encounter with the immortal Life which
became mortal in the mystic scene of the Nativity: a
scene which we can admire here too, in this Square,
as in countless churches and chapels throughout the world, and
in every house where the name of Jesus is adored.
grace of God has appeared to all. Jesus – the
face of the "God who saves", did not show himself
only for a certain few, but for everyone. Although it
is true that in the simple and lowly dwelling of
Bethlehem few persons encountered him, still he came for all:
Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor, those near and those
far away, believers and non-believers… for everyone. Supernatural grace, by
God´s will, is meant for every creature. Yet each human
person needs to accept that grace, to utter his or
her own "yes", like Mary, so that his or her
heart can be illumined by a ray of that divine
light. It was Mary and Joseph, who that night welcomed
the incarnate Word, awaiting it with love, along with the
shepherds who kept watch over their flocks (cf. Lk 2:1-20).
A small community, in other words, which made haste to
adore the Child Jesus; a tiny community which represents the
Church and all people of good will. Today too those
who await him, who seek him in their lives, encounter
the God who out of love became our brother –
all those who turn their hearts to him, who yearn
to see his face and to contribute to the coming
of his Kingdom. Jesus himself would say this in his
preaching: these are the poor in spirit; those who mourn,
the meek, those who thirst for justice; the merciful, the
pure of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness´
sake (cf. Mt 5:3-10). They are the ones who see
in Jesus the face of God and then set out
again, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, renewed in heart by
the joy of his love.
Brothers and sisters, all you who
are listening to my words: this proclamation of hope –
the heart of the Christmas message – is meant for
all men and women. Jesus was born for everyone, and
just as Mary, in Bethlehem, offered him to the shepherds,
so on this day the Church presents him to all
humanity, so that each person and every human situation may
come to know the power of God´s saving grace, which
alone can transform evil into good, which alone can change
human hearts, making them oases of peace.
May the many people
who continue to dwell in darkness and the shadow of
death (cf. Lk 1:79) come to know the power of
God´s saving grace! May the divine Light of Bethlehem radiate
throughout the Holy Land, where the horizon seems once again
bleak for Israelis and Palestinians. May it spread throughout Lebanon,
Iraq and the whole Middle East. May it bring forth
rich fruit from the efforts of all those who, rather
than resigning themselves to the twisted logic of conflict and
violence, prefer instead the path of dialogue and negotiation as
the means of resolving tensions within each country and finding
just and lasting solutions to the conflicts troubling the region.
This light, which brings transformation and renewal, is besought by
the people of Zimbabwe, in Africa, trapped for all too
long in a political and social crisis which, sadly, keeps
worsening, as well as the men and women of the
Democratic Republic of Congo, especially in the war-torn region of
Kivu, Darfur, in Sudan, and Somalia, whose interminable sufferings are
the tragic consequence of the lack of stability and peace.
This light is awaited especially by the children living in
those countries, and the children of all countries experiencing troubles,
so that their future can once more be filled with
Wherever the dignity and rights of the human person are
trampled upon; wherever the selfishness of individuals and groups prevails
over the common good; wherever fratricidal hatred and the exploitation
of man by man risk being taken for granted; wherever
internecine conflicts divide ethnic and social groups and disrupt peaceful
coexistence; wherever terrorism continues to strike; wherever the basics needed
for survival are lacking; wherever an increasingly uncertain future is
regarded with apprehension, even in affluent nations: in each of
these places may the Light of Christmas shine forth and
encourage all people to do their part in a spirit
of authentic solidarity. If people look only to their own
interests, our world will certainly fall apart.
Dear brothers and sisters,
today, "the grace of God our Saviour has appeared" (cf.
Tit 2:11) in this world of ours, with all its
potential and its frailty, its advances and crises, its hopes
and travails. Today, there shines forth the light of Jesus
Christ, the Son of the Most High and the son
of the Virgin Mary: "God from God, light from light,
true God from true God. For us men, and for
our salvation, he came down from heaven". Let us adore
him, this very day, in every corner of the world,
wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a lowly manger.
Let us adore him in silence, while he, still a
mere infant, seems to comfort us by saying: Do not
be afraid, "I am God, and there is no other"
(Is 45:22). Come to me, men and women, peoples and
nations, come to me. Do not be afraid: I have
come to bring you the love of the Father, and
to show you the way of peace.
Let us go, then,
brothers and sisters! Let us make haste, like the shepherds
on that Bethlehem night. God has come to meet us;
he has shown us his face, full of grace and
mercy! May his coming to us not be in vain!
Let us seek Jesus, let us be drawn to his
light which dispels sadness and fear from every human heart.
Let us draw near to him with confidence, and bow
down in humility to adore him. Merry Christmas to all!