Benedict XVI celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and asks all of us to make time and space for God.
Pope Benedict XVI had an urgent message during his homily on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica: he urged people to change their priorities and to “find room for God” despite the latest fascinating technologies and busy lives.
The Pope also spoke out passionately on behalf of the citizens of the Middle East, calling for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and an end to the civil war in Syria.
It was Benedict’s eighth Christmas Eve Mass since he was elected Pope in 2005. He is now 85 years old.
Some 10,000 people attended the Mass, which was broadcast to millions of others via television.
The Pope’s homily was centered on the question of God’s place in our ever more secular modern society.
“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 Pope said. “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.”
The head of the Church said modern societies have reached the point where many people do not have any room in their thinking even to meditate on God’s nature or existence.
“There is no room for him,” the Pope said. “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.”
He continued: “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 [modern people say], it must be structured in such a way that the ‘God hypothesis’ becomes superfluous.”
Inside and outside the basilica, bells chimed when the Pope said “Glory to God in the highest,” the words the Gospels tell us that the angels sang at the moment of Jesus’ birth.
Earlier on December 24, the Pope came to the window of his apartments in the apostolic palace and lit a peace candle, as a larger-than-life nativity scene was unveiled near the obelisk in the middle of St. Peter’s Square below.
Reflecting on the Gospel account of Jesus born in a stable because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the inn, he said when people find no room for God in their lives, they will soon find no room for others.
“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,” he said.
“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,” he said.
He also asked for prayers for the people who “live and suffer” in the Holy Land today. He called for peace among Israelis and Palestinians and also for the people of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, praying 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 Vatican is concerned about the exodus from the Middle East of Christians, many of whom leave because they fear for their safety. Christians now comprise 5% of the population of the region, down from 20% a century ago.
According to some estimates, the current population of 12 million Christians in the Middle East could halve by 2020 if security and birth rates continue to decline.
At noon on Christmas Day, the Pope delivered his twice-yearly “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) blessing and message from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.