Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Vatican Radio REPORT -  Pope Benedict XVI has urged people never to loose hope in peace this Christmas, even in situations of conflict such as Syria, or nations afflicted by terrorism such as Nigeria, because the “Truth has sprung out of the earth”, with the birth of Christ.

Below the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s Message this Christmas 
“Veritas de terra orta est!” – “Truth has sprung out of the earth” (Ps 85:12).

Dear brothers and sisters in Rome and throughout the world, a happy Christmas to you and your families!

In this Year of Faith, I express my Christmas greetings and good wishes in these words taken from one of the Psalms: “Truth has sprung out of the earth”. Actually, in the text of the Psalm, these words are in the future: “Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, /and justice shall look down from heaven. / The Lord himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps” (Ps 85:11-14).

Today these prophetic words have been fulfilled! In Jesus, born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary, kindness and truth have indeed met; justice and peace have kissed; truth has sprung out of the earth and justice has looked down from heaven. Saint Augustine explains with admirable brevity: “What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? The flesh. Ask whence Christ has been born, and you will see that truth has sprung out of the earth … truth has been born of the Virgin Mary” (En. in Ps. 84:13). And in a Christmas sermon he says that “in this yearly feast we celebrate that day when the prophecy was fulfilled: ‘truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from heaven’. The Truth, which is in the bosom of the Father has sprung out of the earth, to be in the womb of a mother too. The Truth which rules the whole world has sprung out of the earth, to be held in the arms of a woman ... The Truth which heaven cannot contain has sprung out of the earth, to be laid in a manger. For whose benefit did so lofty a God become so lowly? Certainly not for his own, but for our great benefit, if we believe” (Sermones, 185, 1).

“If we believe”. Here we see the power of faith! God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him. Porta fidei! The door of faith! We could be frightened by this, our inverse omnipotence. This human ability to be closed to God can make us fearful. But see the reality which chases away this gloomy thought, the hope that conquers fear: truth has sprung up! God is born! “The earth has yielded its fruits” (Ps 67:7). Yes, there is a good earth, a healthy earth, an earth freed of all selfishness and all lack of openness. In this world there is a good soil which God has prepared, that he might come to dwell among us. A dwelling place for his presence in the world. This good earth exists, and today too, in 2012, from this earth truth has sprung up! Consequently, there is hope in the world, a hope in which we can trust, even at the most difficult times and in the most difficult situations. Truth has sprung up, bringing kindness, justice and peace.

Yes, may peace spring up for the people of Syria, deeply wounded and divided by a conflict which does not spare even the defenceless and reaps innocent victims. Once again I appeal for an end to the bloodshed, easier access for the relief of refugees and the displaced, and dialogue in the pursuit of a political solution to the conflict.

May peace spring up in the Land where the Redeemer was born, and may he grant Israelis and Palestinians courage to end to long years of conflict and division, and to embark resolutely on the path of negotiation.

In the countries of North Africa, which are experiencing a major transition in pursuit of a new future – and especially the beloved land of Egypt, blessed by the childhood of Jesus – may citizens work together to build societies founded on justice and respect for the freedom and dignity of every person.

May peace spring up on the vast continent of Asia. May the Child Jesus look graciously on the many peoples who dwell in those lands and, in a special way, upon all those who believe in him. May the King of Peace turn his gaze to the new leaders of the People’s Republic of China for the high task which awaits them. I express my hope that, in fulfilling this task, they will esteem the contribution of the religions, in respect for each, in such a way that they can help to build a fraternal society for the benefit of that noble People and of the whole world.

May the Birth of Christ favour the return of peace in Mali and that of concord in Nigeria, where savage acts of terrorism continue to reap victims, particularly among Christians. May the Redeemer bring help and comfort to the refugees from the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and grant peace to Kenya, where brutal attacks have struck the civilian population and places of worship.

May the Child Jesus bless the great numbers of the faithful who celebrate him in Latin America. May he increase their human and Christian virtues, sustain all those forced to leave behind their families and their land, and confirm government leaders in their commitment to development and fighting crime.

Dear brothers and sisters! Kindness and truth, justice and peace have met; they have become incarnate in the child born of Mary in Bethlehem. That child is the Son of God; he is God appearing in history. His birth is a flowering of new life for all humanity. May every land become a good earth which receives and brings forth kindness and truth, justice and peace. Happy Christmas to all of you!



Opening Prayer:
V. O God, come to my assistance.

R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Glory be to the Father and to
the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now
and ever shall be, world without

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Day 8 Prayers

The Journey in Egypt
O most sweet infant Jesus, who dwelled as an exile
in Egypt for seven years, where spoke your first words,
and, first begin to walk upon this earth. 

Have mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, 0 Lord. Have mercy on us.
Hail Mary...



NOVENA PREPARATORY TO CHRISTMAS In order to the devout preparation of ourselves for the glorious Birthday of our most loving Saviour, Jesus Christ, which the holy Church recalls to our memory every year on the 25th of December, and at the same time to render Him thanks for this great benefit, Pope Pius VII., by a Rescript of the Segretaria of the Memorials, dated August 12th, 1815 (which said Rescript is preserved in the Segretaria of the Vicariate), granted to all faithful Christians who, being contrite in heart, should prepare themselves for that great solemnity by a novena, consisting of pious exercises, prayers, acts of virtue, &c. -
i. An indulgence of 300 days each day of the said novena, and -
ii. A plenary indulgence to be gained on Christmas day, or on some day in its octave, by those who, after Confession and Communion, shall have made the said novena every day, and who shall pray according to the intentions of the Sovereigns Pontiff: and note that the Confession and Communion may be made on any one of the days of the said novena, provided the novena is correctly kept. This was declared by Pope Pius VIII., of holy memory, by means of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, July 9, 1830. These indulgences were extended by the above-named Pius VII. to one other time in the year, besides the the specified, when any one should make the aforesaid novena in honour of the Child Jesus.




Merry Christmas!  Jesus has the perfect gift for all of us – Himself. Will you accept it?
It is a common problem: you want to give something special, something just right, but what do you give to the person who already seems to have everything?
Eventually though, the answer presents itself to believers and nonbelievers alike, and there is still time to give it today and every day: you give them the gift they cannot buy for themselves, that which they cannot even obtainunless it is given to them.  You give them the gift of self, the gift of love.  Love is something that must be given – it cannot be taken and it is not automatic, the gift of self in love is a choice and it must be freely bestowed.
The gift of love is the best gift to give and to receive, and for it to be perfect, it must be the most perfect of loves, the love of God.  On this Christmas Day, the Lord makes a gift of Himself to us, and to help us see that He comes not to overpower us, but as a gift, a gift of love, the Almighty comes to us as a newborn baby and in a family.  He presents us with this gift of His love so that we might rejoice in it and share it with others as a family, just as Mary and Joseph shared the infant Jesus with the shepherds.
Jesus, who is Emmanuel, God-with-us, comes as a little baby in poverty and need of help.  The gift that He asks for in return is our love and our gift of love to others, helping Him in the work of salvation.
Both those who are faithful and those strongly influenced by secular materialism often come to realize that material things ultimately leave them unfulfilled, and that the best present is the gift of love.  The need and desire for love is inherent in the nature of the human person.  Everyone wants to be loved and wanted. We thrive on love, and when we do not have it or give it, our lives wither.
One of our challenges in the New Evangelization is to help people to see the connection between the love they naturally seek and the Lord.  God is Love, but so many people fail to see this – the many past messages of faith have been crowded out by the messages of an aggressive secularism, materialism, and individualism, such that many erroneously believe God and His Church have little to say to them today.  Even many previously catechized Catholics believe this and so they have left their faith behind.
Thus, we need to re-propose to them the truth:  that Jesus Christ is the answer, that the gift they really need, the true and undying love they seek in their restless hearts, can be found in Him, in the little child of Bethlehem, as discovered by St. Augustine, who had himself been a fairly worldly man until his conversion. Helping others to see this connection between love and the Baby born in the stable, that God is Love and the Church is the instrument of His love, is key to succeeding in overcoming the many misconceptions and misunderstandings that people have about God, the Church, and the Catholic faith.
Love is the transcendent common language of mankind, it is how we can reach the fallen away and the non-believer.  There is nothing more powerful than love – it was through the power of love that the universe was created and death was defeated, so it will be by and through love that people will be transformed.  Even the secular materialist knows that love is the most important thing in life – it is life – but they keep going down the wrong roads to find it.  We need to help them find the right road.
Christmas is an ideal moment for evangelization. In Jesus, instead of fleeting worldly “riches,” all of which will one day be reduced to dust, we can receive the blessings of an entire kingdom, a kingdom of eternal life and love and a spiritual home, the Church.  Although we may have already bought various gifts to place under the tree, it is not too late to give the most perfect and everlasting gift that one can give, the gift of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ.  When we go to Mass we can take others with us – to go see Jesus in person and to receive Him, either in the Eucharist or spiritually.  For our brother and sister Catholics who have left, we can ask them to come home, and for non-Catholics, we can invite them to join the family gathered around Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in the manger.



According to the Gospel of Matthew (2.11), the Magi brought three gifts to Christ: gold, myrrh, and frankincense. This past year, Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, has received three precious gifts: the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith; the canonization of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha; and the Year of Faith.
The Synod reminded us that to believe the Good News is to accept and rejoice in our dignity as sons and daughters of the Father in Christ. To evangelize is to announce the Lord’s offer of salvation through both word and witness.  It means opening the way to peace and forgiveness, charity and justice. Since Our Lord was anointed to bring “good news to the poor” (Luke 4.18), evangelization must embrace an appreciation and sharing of the beauty of life and the goods of this world.
Saint Kateri offers the Church in our country a special opportunity to deepen our awareness of the Indigenous People, to thank God for them, and to seek the grace of reconciliation. We are told that when Kateri died, God healed the physical ravages of smallpox on her face and restored her beauty. More importantly, God desires to heal the wounds of our hearts and spirits, and does so by the grace of his mercy. By thus reconciling us to himself, God leads us to a healing of all that separates us from one another and creation.
In his homily to open the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI invited each of us during these coming months to rediscover “the joy of believing” and to share the hope that springs from faith. In response to humanity’s thirst for God and the ultimate meaning of life, people of faith “point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive,” he said. “Living faith opens the heart to the grace of God which frees us from pessimism.” By witnessing to new life in Christ and being transformed by God, we learn “the wisdom of the wayfarer” who “has learned the art of living and can share it” with others.
This Christmas, let us thankfully accept and generously share these three wonderful gifts: the golden treasure of evangelization; the perfumed myrrh of reconciliation; and the ascending frankincense of faith. May our prayers and trust in God envelope us in holy love and care for one another.     
This is my prayer for you and your families this Christmas and throughout the coming year.
Yours sincerely in Our Lord,
+ Richard W. SmithArchbishop of EdmontonPresident
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops



Text: Archbishop Vincent Nichols' Midnight Mass homily | Text: Archbishop Vincent Nichols' Midnight Mass homily

"There is a most unpromising introduction to the proclamation of the birth of Christ, as we have heard it this night, in the Gospel of St Luke. A census of all the people had been ordered. Now censuses are never popular, especially not this one, imposed by an occupying force, a deeply hated form of government. Censuses are instruments of control. Once the information has been gathered then unwanted consequences follow: an increase in taxation or a wider conscription into the army, for example. I am not sure what the first century equivalent would have been of the unwelcome brown envelope dropping onto the mat!
Yet out of this unpromising circumstance, tonight we announce news of great joy: a saviour is born to us; a son is given; a light has shone in our darkness; justice and integrity, so elusive to our own efforts, are now promised to us by God himself.
A beautiful and appealing way of expressing these truths are these few lines of poetry:
Oh great little one,
Whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven
Stoops heaven to earth.
Here is expressed for us the promise of this night, of this great feast: that there is a touch of the eternal in our midst, and that he who comes actually raises who we are and what we do into an entirely new realm. Our earth, our efforts, our reality are lifted into heaven, just as the glory of heaven comes to be our light and our
What does this mean?
Surely it means that in the light of this night, every act of kindness and compassion which we perform is seen to be lifted to heaven, revealed to be of God. Surely it means that our best efforts at daily work, whether keeping the home or the streets clean, or creating new wealth through business and enterprise are now seen to be what they are: a sharing in the creativity of God himself, who in the coming of this divine child raises up to heaven the good things of this earth. Surely it means that all true human loving is now seen to be rooted in, and expressive of, the
love which is God, which is seen in this stooping low by God to show us the fullness of that divine love. Surely it means that the love of husband and wife, which is creative of new human life, is a marvellously personal sharing in the creative love of God who brings into being the eternal soul that comes to every human being with the gift of human life.
For these marvels we indeed give thanks to God this Christmas night as he bestows on our earthly realities the grandeur of his presence. Tonight we discover again that, in God's absolute graciousness, he entrusts himself to us and that we become partners with God in the work of his creation.
Yet, as St Paul reminds us, if this promise is to be realised in its fullness, then we need to be purified. There are, he tells us, things that we have to give up as they do not lead directly to God. There are aspects of our lives that cannot be lifted up to heaven without that purification.
Sometimes our charity is formed more out of self-interest that genuine compassion for the other. Perhaps we have more than half an eye on the onlookers who will be impressed by our public generosity so that we are seeking the glory that will be ours rather than the relief of need.
Sometimes patterns of work and business are simply exploitative of employees, suppliers or customers. A corrosive disrespect can fashion the culture of a business and put in it need of refashioning.
Sometimes sexual expression can be without the public bond of the faithfulness of marriage and its ordering to new life. Even governments mistakenly promote such patterns of sexual intimacy as objectively to be approved and even encouraged among the young.
This Christmas is then a time to make fresh resolves that what we bring to the crib may be more readily, through the Lord's mercy, raised to heaven and become fittingly part of God's good work.
A light is given; it brings us great joy, for now we see a sure pathway by which we can make our journey. A son is given; it brings us great joy, for now we know we have a companion who will never abandon us and who can bring us his gift of peace. May this Christmas mark a new beginning for each of us. May the birth of this child also herald for us another meeting with him which is to come when, at the moment of our death, with mercy offered in greater abundance than our repentance, he ushers us into his kingdom, our true and eternal home. He comes to give us that promise. May we welcome him with great joy this holy night. Amen.


A Christmas Carol is a song or hymn dedicated to Christmas. They originated in Rome around the 4th Century AD. Here is a little history of the top 5 Christmas Carols in history. 
Silent Night, originally "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht" in German, was written by the Catholic Priest Joseph Mohr and the melody composed by Franz Xaver Gruber. The tune was written in Austria in 1818. 
O Come, All Ye Faithful 
According to most sources the Adeste Fidelis  (O Come, All Ye Faithful in Latin) was composed there by John Reading about the year 1680. It is believed that the lyrics were written by Cistercian monks much earlier.
What Child is This was written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix. It was set to the traditional English Tune of Greensleeves which originated around 1580. 
Away in a Manger was published in Philadelphia in 1885. It is uncertain who wrote the lyrics. However, the tune was called St. Kilda and attributed to J. E. Clark. 
Joy To The World was written by Isaac Watts and based on Psalm 98. It was published in 1719 and was arranged to music in 1839 by Lowell Mason. 


PART 1 - http://jceworld.blogspot.ca/2012/12/catholic-movies-watch-st-rita-part-1.html
2 - http://jceworld.blogspot.ca/2012/12/catholic-movies-watch-st-rita-part-2.html
3 - http://jceworld.blogspot.ca/2012/12/catholic-movies-watch-st-rita-part-3.html


The cardinal seeks greater government support in social housing, health care, pensions, education. Emphasizes the family as a unit between a man and a woman, open to procreation, to counter the demographic crisis of the territory and attempts to legalize gay marriage. This year the Church in Hong Kong has welcomed 3,500 new members.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - In his Christmas message to the Diocese of Hong Kong, Card. John Tong has reiterated the request of the Catholic Church for universal suffrage for the territory in electing the chief executive and parliament. At the same time, he has stressed the importance of policies that help families in dealing with the economic and cultural crisis. The cardinal asks for greater support for housing, education and pensions and reiterates the importance of understanding the family as a unit of a man and woman, "directed toward the procreation and raising of children."
In his message, published in today's edition of the diocesan newspaper, Card. Tong also speaks of his experience as a year as Cardinal, after his appointment on January 6, 2012.

The Bishop of Hong Kong, remembers with joy the vibrancy of local communities, which this year received 3,500 new members who were baptized at Easter.

With discrete courage, the cardinal said he had conferred twice with the Government of Hong Kong, in February and September, presenting the requests of the diocese. "Besides calling for an implementation of universal suffrage in the election of the Chief Executive and of the legislature - the statement reads - we urged the authorities to improve current policies on housing, health care, education and retirement security ".

Neither Britain at the time of the colony, nor China after 1997 have ever guaranteed the people of Hong Kong the opportunity to directly elect their leaders and parliamentarians. Even today, the chief executive is chosen by an ad hoc committee, and only half of the Parliament is elected by popular ballot. China has long ruled out universal suffrage for Hong Kong at least postponing it until after 2017.

In his talks with the government, the Cardinal points out that he also spoke of "stable marriage and harmonious family life are prerequisites to safeguarding the well-being of society".

Recalling the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Cardinal reaffirms that the family is composed of a "mutual self-giving and lifelong commitment between a man and a woman". "While marriage is intended for the benefit of husband and wife, it is also directed towards the procreation and upbringing of children "

The cardinal's underscoring this is urgent because Hong Kong is suffering from a strong demographic crisis. At the same time, in recent weeks some groups have started to push the government for legislation to recognize gay marriage.

(with the collaboration of Eugenia Zhang)



Isaiah 9: 1 - 6

1But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zeb'ulun and the land of Naph'tali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.3Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.4For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Mid'ian.5For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire.6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Psalms 96: 1 - 3, 11 - 13
1O sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
2Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.
3Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!
11Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy
13before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth
Titus 2: 11 - 14
11For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men,
12training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world,
13awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Luke 2: 1 - 14
1In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.
2This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria.
3And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered.
7And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
10And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people;
11for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
12And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"


Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Feast: December 25

Feast Day:December 25
THE world had subsisted about four thousand years when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, having taken human flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and being made man, was born of her, for the redemption of mankind, at Bethlehem of Judea. Joseph and Mary had come up to Bethlehem to be enrolled, and, unable to find shelter elsewhere, they took refuge in a stable, and in this lowly place Jesus Christ was born. The Blessed Virgin wrapped the divine Infant in swaddling-clothes, and laid Him in the manger. While the sensual and the proud were asleep, an angel appeared to some poor shepherds. They were seized with great fear, but the heavenly messenger said to them: "Fear not: for behold I bring you good tidings of exceeding great joy, that shall be to all the people. For this day is born to you a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord, in the  city of David. And this shall be a sign to you: you shall find the Child wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and laid in a manger." After the departure of the angel the wondering shepherds said to one another: "Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see the word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shown to us." They immediately hastened thither, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Infant lying in the manger. Bowing down they adored Him, and then returned to their flocks,  glorifying and praising God.


Vatican Radio REPORT -  Pope Benedict XVI led the Universal Church in joyous celebrations for the birth of Our Lord Christmas Eve in Mass attended by thousands and broadcast globally from St. Peter’s Basilica. During his homily he posed a question to believers and non-believers alike: Will people find room in their hectic, technology-driven lives for children, the poor and God?. He also also prayed that Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and freedom, and asked the faithful to pray for strife-torn Syria as well as Lebanon and Iraq.

Below the full text of Pope Benedict XVI’s Homily at Christmas Mass 2012
Homily Christmas Vigil

Dear Brothers and Sisters!
Again and again the beauty of this Gospel touches our hearts: a beauty that is the splendour of truth. Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.
I am also repeatedly struck by the Gospel writer’s almost casual remark that there was no room for them at the inn. Inevitably the question arises, what would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door. Would there be room for them? And then it occurs to us that Saint John takes up this seemingly chance comment about the lack of room at the inn, which drove the Holy Family into the stable; he explores it more deeply and arrives at the heart of the matter when he writes: “he came to his own home, and his own people received him not” (Jn 1:11). The great moral question of our attitude towards the homeless, towards refugees and migrants, takes on a deeper dimension: do we really have room for God when he seeks to enter under our roof? Do we have time and space for him? Do we not actually turn away God himself? We begin to do so when we have no time for him. The faster we can move, the more efficient our time-saving appliances become, the less time we have. And God? The question of God never seems urgent. Our time is already completely full. But matters go deeper still. Does God actually have a place in our thinking? Our process of thinking is structured in such a way that he simply ought not to exist. Even if he seems to knock at the door of our thinking, he has to be explained away. If thinking is to be taken seriously, it must be structured in such a way that the “God hypothesis” becomes superfluous. There is no room for him. Not even in our feelings and desires is there any room for him. We want ourselves. We want what we can seize hold of, we want happiness that is within our reach, we want our plans and purposes to succeed. We are so “full” of ourselves that there is no room left for God. And that means there is no room for others either, for children, for the poor, for the stranger. By reflecting on that one simple saying about the lack of room at the inn, we have come to see how much we need to listen to Saint Paul’s exhortation: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom 12:2). Paul speaks of renewal, the opening up of our intellect (nous), of the whole way we view the world and ourselves. The conversion that we need must truly reach into the depths of our relationship with reality. Let us ask the Lord that we may become vigilant for his presence, that we may hear how softly yet insistently he knocks at the door of our being and willing. Let us ask that we may make room for him within ourselves, that we may recognize him also in those through whom he speaks to us: children, the suffering, the abandoned, those who are excluded and the poor of this world.
There is another verse from the Christmas story on which I should like to reflect with you – the angels’ hymn of praise, which they sing out following the announcement of the new-born Saviour: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” God is glorious. God is pure light, the radiance of truth and love. He is good. He is true goodness, goodness par excellence. The angels surrounding him begin by simply proclaiming the joy of seeing God’s glory. Their song radiates the joy that fills them. In their words, it is as if we were hearing the sounds of heaven. There is no question of attempting to understand the meaning of it all, but simply the overflowing happiness of seeing the pure splendour of God’s truth and love. We want to let this joy reach out and touch us: truth exists, pure goodness exists, pure light exists. God is good, and he is the supreme power above all powers. All this should simply make us joyful tonight, together with the angels and the shepherds.
Linked to God’s glory on high is peace on earth among men. Where God is not glorified, where he is forgotten or even denied, there is no peace either. Nowadays, though, widespread currents of thought assert the exact opposite: they say that religions, especially monotheism, are the cause of the violence and the wars in the world. If there is to be peace, humanity must first be liberated from them. Monotheism, belief in one God, is said to be arrogance, a cause of intolerance, because by its nature, with its claim to possess the sole truth, it seeks to impose itself on everyone. Now it is true that in the course of history, monotheism has served as a pretext for intolerance and violence. It is true that religion can become corrupted and hence opposed to its deepest essence, when people think they have to take God’s cause into their own hands, making God into their private property. We must be on the lookout for these distortions of the sacred. While there is no denying a certain misuse of religion in history, yet it is not true that denial of God would lead to peace. If God’s light is extinguished, man’s divine dignity is also extinguished. Then the human creature would cease to be God’s image, to which we must pay honour in every person, in the weak, in the stranger, in the poor. Then we would no longer all be brothers and sisters, children of the one Father, who belong to one another on account of that one Father. The kind of arrogant violence that then arises, the way man then despises and tramples upon man: we saw this in all its cruelty in the last century. Only if God’s light shines over man and within him, only if every single person is desired, known and loved by God is his dignity inviolable, however wretched his situation may be. On this Holy Night, God himself became man; as Isaiah prophesied, the child born here is “Emmanuel”, God with us (Is 7:14). And down the centuries, while there has been misuse of religion, it is also true that forces of reconciliation and goodness have constantly sprung up from faith in the God who became man. Into the darkness of sin and violence, this faith has shone a bright ray of peace and goodness, which continues to shine.
So Christ is our peace, and he proclaimed peace to those far away and to those near at hand (cf. Eph 2:14, 17). How could we now do other than pray to him: Yes, Lord, proclaim peace today to us too, whether we are far away or near at hand. Grant also to us today that swords may be turned into ploughshares (Is 2:4), that instead of weapons for warfare, practical aid may be given to the suffering. Enlighten those who think they have to practise violence in your name, so that they may see the senselessness of violence and learn to recognize your true face. Help us to become people “with whom you are pleased” – people according to your image and thus people of peace.
Once the angels departed, the shepherds said to one another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened for us (cf. Lk 2:15). The shepherds went with haste to Bethlehem, the Evangelist tells us (cf. 2:16). A holy curiosity impelled them to see this child in a manger, who the angel had said was the Saviour, Christ the Lord. The great joy of which the angel spoke had touched their hearts and given them wings. 
Let us go over to Bethlehem, says the Church’s liturgy to us today. Trans-eamus is what the Latin Bible says: let us go “across”, daring to step beyond, to make the “transition” by which we step outside our habits of thought and habits of life, across the purely material world into the real one, across to the God who in his turn has come across to us. Let us ask the Lord to grant that we may overcome our limits, our world, to help us to encounter him, especially at the moment when he places himself into our hands and into our heart in the Holy Eucharist.
Let us go over to Bethlehem: as we say these words to one another, along with the shepherds, we should not only think of the great “crossing over” to the living God, but also of the actual town of Bethlehem and all those places where the Lord lived, ministered and suffered. Let us pray at this time for the people who live and suffer there today. Let us pray that there may be peace in that land. Let us pray that Israelis and Palestinians may be able to live their lives in the peace of the one God and in freedom. Let us also pray for the countries of the region, for Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and their neighbours: that there may be peace there, that Christians in those lands where our faith was born may be able to continue living there, that Christians and Muslims may build up their countries side by side in God’s peace.
The shepherds made haste. Holy curiosity and holy joy impelled them. In our case, it is probably not very often that we make haste for the things of God. God does not feature among the things that require haste. The things of God can wait, we think and we say. And yet he is the most important thing, ultimately the one truly important thing. Why should we not also be moved by curiosity to see more closely and to know what God has said to us? At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us. Amen.