Urges Them to Learn From Child Jesus
Benedict XVI is suggesting that peace in the Middle East could be delivered by the hands of children, noting that youngsters following the example of the Child Jesus could teach their parents about love. The Pope offered this idea today when he celebrated his largest Mass yet during his weeklong pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He returns to Rome on Friday. An estimated 50,000 faithful turned out for the event at the Mount of the Precipice, traditionally held to be the site where angry Nazarenes wanted to throw Jesus off the cliff (cf. Luke 4:29).
As the local Church in the Holy Land is marking a year of the family, the Pontiff focused his message on families and the key role they play in society.
He began the homily reminding that the family in “God’s plan is based on the lifelong fidelity of a man and a woman consecrated by the marriage covenant and accepting of God’s gift of new life.”
“How much the men and women of our time need to reappropriate this fundamental truth, which stands at the foundation of society, and how important is the witness of married couples for the formation of sound consciences and the building of a civilization of love,” the Holy Father reflected.
Referring to the Child Jesus and citing “Gaudium et Spes,” Benedict XVI went on to consider the particular mission faced by children in the Middle East, suggesting that they could have a key role in helping the region.
“The Second Vatican Council teaches that children have a special role to play in the growth of their parents in holiness,” the Pope recalled, “I urge you to reflect on this, and to let the example of Jesus guide you, not only in showing respect for your parents, but also helping them to discover more fully the love which gives our lives their deepest meaning.
“In the Holy Family of Nazareth, it was Jesus who taught Mary and Joseph something of the greatness of the love of God his heavenly Father, the ultimate source of all love, the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.
“Dear friends, in the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass we asked the Father to ‘help us to live as the Holy Family, united in respect and love.’ Let us reaffirm here our commitment to be a leaven of respect and love in the world around us.”
And for the second time during his pilgrimage in the Middle East, Benedict XVI dedicated a central theme of his discourse to the defense of women. (On Sunday in Jordan at the open-air Mass in Amman International Stadium, he picked up the same theme.)
Mentioning Mary, the mother of the Holy Family, the Pope said: “Nazareth reminds us of our need to acknowledge and respect the God-given dignity and proper role of women, as well as their particular charisms and talents.
“Whether as mothers in families, as a vital presence in the work force and the institutions of society, or in the particular vocation of following our Lord by the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, women have an indispensable role in creating that ‘human ecology’ which our world, and this land, so urgently needs: a milieu in which children learn to love and to cherish others, to be honest and respectful to all, to practice the virtues of mercy and forgiveness.”
But the Holy Father had a particular message for men as well.
“Here too,” he said, “we think of St. Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph’s strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one’s word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!”
Benedict XVI offered a commentary on the Mass reading from Sirach, saying it presents the family as a school — one that “trains its members in the practice of those virtues which make for authentic happiness and lasting fulfillment.”
He added, “In the family each person, whether the smallest child or the oldest relative, is valued for himself or herself, and not seen simply as a means to some other end.”
Thus, the Bishop of Rome noted the “essential role” of the family for society. And in this regard, he affirmed, there is a “duty of the state to support families in their mission of education, to protect the institution of the family and its inherent rights, and to ensure that all families can live and flourish in conditions of dignity.”