Advent: Despite indifference to God people want transcendence —you are a witness!…
(CUSA) – In 2012 Benedict XVI prayed First Vespers the night before the First Sunday of Advent with the university students of Rome.
The following is an excerpt from his reflection on Christian life which must be open in faith not closed in to itself. —Ed.
POPE BENEDICT XVI
FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
FIRST VESPERS, 2012
“He who calls you is faithful.”
Dear University Students,
The Apostle Paul’s words guide us to understanding the true meaning of the Liturgical Year which we are beginning this evening with the recitation of First Vespers of Advent.
The whole journey of the Church Year is orientated to discovering and living fidelity to the God of Jesus Christ who will be presented to us once again, in the Grotto of Bethlehem, in the face of a Child.
The entire history of salvation is a journey of love, mercy and benevolence: from Creation to the liberation of the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt, to the gift of the Law on Sinai, to the return to the homeland from the Babylonian captivity. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was always the close God who never abandoned his People.
On several occasions he suffered their infidelity with sadness and patiently awaited their return, ever with the freedom of a love that precedes and sustains the beloved, attentive to his or her dignity and deepest expectations.
God did not withdraw into his heaven but lowered himself to man’s experience: a great mystery that succeeds in surpassing every possible expectation. God entered human time in the most unthinkable way: by making himself a child and going through the stages of human life, so that our whole existence, spirit, soul and body — as St Paul has reminded us — might be kept blameless and be raised to God’s heights. And he did all this out of his faithful love for humanity.
When love is true, by its nature it strives for the good of others, for their greatest possible good.
It is not limited merely to respecting the commitments of friendship that have been taken on, but goes further, without calculation or measure. This is precisely what the living, true God did, whose profound mystery is revealed to us in St John’s words: “God is love.”
In Jesus of Nazareth this God takes upon himself the whole of humanity, the whole history of man, and he gives it a decisive reorientation toward a new manner of human existence, characterized by having been generated by God and by aspiring to him.
Dear young people, distinguished rectors and professors, it is a cause of great joy to me to share these reflections with you who represent Rome’s university world.
In this world, while retaining their own specific identities, converge Rome’s state and private universities and the pontifical institutions that have developed together for so many years, bearing a lively witness to a fertile dialogue and cooperation among the different branches of knowledge and theology…
The liturgical year that we are beginning with these Vespers also represents for you the journey to live once again the mystery of this faithfulness of God, on which you are called to found your lives, as on a firm rock.
In celebrating and living this itinerary of faith with the whole Church, you will experience that Jesus Christ is the one Lord of the cosmos and of history, without whom every human project risks coming to nothing.
The liturgy, lived in its true spirit, is always the fundamental school for living the Christian faith, a “theological” faith which involves you in your whole being — spirit, soul and body — to make you living stones in the edifice of the Church and collaborators of the New Evangelization.
Especially in the Eucharist the living God makes himself so close that he becomes food that supports us on the journey, a presence that transforms us with the fire of his love.
Dear friends, we are living in a context in which we often come across indifference to God. However, I think that in the inner depths of all those who live far from God — also among your peers — there is an inner longing for the infinite, for transcendence.
It is your task to witness in the university halls to the close God who also shows himself in the search for the truth, the soul of all intellectual commitment…
Faith is the door that God opens in our lives to lead us to the encounter with Christ, in which the presence of the human meets the today of God. The Christian faith is not adherence to a generic or indefinite God but to the living God who in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, entered our history and revealed himself as the Redeemer of man.
Believing means entrusting one’s life to the One who alone can give it fullness in time and open it to a hope beyond time.
In this Year of Faith the invitation, that I wish to address to the entire academic community of Rome, is to reflect on faith. The continuous dialogue between the State or private universities and the Pontifical universities promises hope for an ever more meaningful presence of the Church in the context of a culture that is not only Roman but also Italian and international…
Dear friends, “He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it”; he will make you heralds of his presence.
In this evening’s prayer let us set out in spirit toward the Bethlehem Grotto in order to taste the true joy of Christmas: the joy of welcoming at the center of our life, after the example of the Virgin Mary and of St Joseph, that Child who reminds us that God’s eyes are open on the world and on every man and woman.
God’s gaze is focused on us because he is faithful to his love! Only this certainty can lead humanity towards goals of peace and prosperity, in this delicate and complex period of history…
I entrust to Mary, Seat of Wisdom, all of you and your loved ones…. May the lamps you will carry in your chaplaincies always be fed by your faith that is humble but full of reverence so that each one of you may be a light of hope and peace in the university environment. Amen.