Christians draw joy from knowing God is near, pope says

Advent wreath

Advent wreath
CNS photo/Lisa A. Johnston
By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY—In the dry spiritual desert of modern society and the darkness of moral and economic confusion, Christians draw joy from knowing that Christ is near, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Celebrating a morning Mass at Rome’s Our Lady of Grace parish and reciting the Angelus at the Vatican later Dec. 11, Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, Pope Benedict said true joy is not found in twinkling Christmas decorations or presents, but in God’s gift of his son.
During his homily at the parish Mass, the pope said the world today still needs a John the Baptist, “a voice in the desert, like today in the desert of the large cities of this world, the desert of the great absence of God.”
“We need voices that simply proclaim to us: ‘God exists, is always near, even when he seems absent,’” the pope said.
Pope Benedict told members of the parish, which consecrated its new church in 2010, that their Advent task is to share the Good News with their neighbors, bringing light and joy to situations often marked by sadness and struggle.
“In this world with so much darkness, we all are called to be witnesses of the light,” he said. “We can do that only if we carry the light within us, if we are sure not only that the light exists, but if we have seen a bit of the light” in prayer, in the Mass and in the sacrament of reconciliation.
The pope returned to the Vatican for the midday recitation of the Angelus and to bless the statues of Baby Jesus that children bring and then place in their Nativity scene at home or at school.
The pope asked the children to remember him when they pray in front of their Nativity scenes and he promised to remember them in his prayers.
Advent is a reminder to Christians “to live in expectation of Jesus, to never stop awaiting his coming” and to maintain an attitude of openness to a deeper relationship with him, the pope said.
“The environment around us proposes its usual commercial message, even if it is toned down because of the economic crisis,” he said.
But Christians “are called to live Advent without being distracted by the lights,” he said. “If we persevere in being vigilant in prayer and exultant in praise, our eyes will be able to recognize him as the true light of the world, who comes to brighten our darkness,” the pope said.