CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Pope calls for a new vision of life in The Financial Times

 

HONG KONG (SE): The Financial Times published an article penned by Pope Benedict XVI in its December 20 edition, entitled, The birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values, our very way of life.

Attributed simply to the Bishop of Rome and author of ‘Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives’, the article begins by quoting Jesus’ famous economic comment, “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Pope Benedict points out that Jesus was responding to a question designed to trap him into defining himself as a revolutionary or a friend of an oppressive power.

However, in his response, he deftly shifts the conversation into another zone, cautioning against the politicisation of religion and the deification of temporal power, or money.

“The Christmas stories in the New Testament are intended to convey a similar message,” the pope writes.

“Yet this infant, born in an obscure and far-flung corner of the empire, was to offer the world a far greater peace, truly universal in scope and transcending all limitations of space and time,” he continues.

Pope Benedict says that the birth of Christ challenges us to reassess our priorities, our values and our way of life.

He says that the end of a year that has been marked by economic hardship calls for an examination of conscience and the story of Christmas contains all the prompts necessary to do that.

“Christmas can be the time in which we learn to read the gospel, to get to know Jesus not only as the child in the manger, but as the one in whom we recognise that God made man,” he continues.

“It is in the gospel that Christians find inspiration for their daily lives and their involvement in worldly affairs—be it in the houses of parliament or the stock exchange. Christians should not shun the world; they should engage with it. But their involvement in politics and economics should transcend every form of ideology,” the pope stresses.

He adds that to fight against poverty in the world needs an inspiration, requiring the recognition of the innate value of each and every human being, and the Christmas story can provide this inspiration.

“(Christians) work for a more equitable sharing of the earth’s resources out of the belief that—as stewards of God’s creation—we have a duty to care for the weakest and most vulnerable,” the pope explains.

“Christians oppose greed and exploitation out of a conviction that generosity and selfless love, as taught and lived by Jesus of Nazareth, are the way that leads to fullness of life. The belief in the transcendent destiny of every human being gives urgency to the task of promoting peace and justice for all,” he says.

However, he adds that what gives these goals a great power is the fact that they are shared by many people, both Christian and otherwise, so cooperation between Church and state is possible.

“Yet Christians render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar, not what belongs to God. Christians have at times throughout history been unable to comply with demands made by Caesar,” he points out.

He says that people of Jesus’ time resisted Caesar, because he had put himself in the place of God, and when Christians of today refuse to bow down to the false god of the state or totalitarian authority, it is not because they are not up with the times, but because they are free from the constraints of ideology, as they have something more noble in sight.

He then points out that many nativity scenes in Italy depict the ruins of Rome in the background. 

“This shows that the birth of the child Jesus marks the end of the old order, the pagan world, in which Caesar’s claims went virtually unchallenged. Now there is a new king, who relies not on the force of arms, but on the power of love,” he explains.

Pope Benedict explains that by being born in humble circumstances, Jesus embraces those on the fringes of society and brings hope to the vulnerable.

“From the manger, Christ calls us to live as citizens of his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that all people of goodwill can help to build here on earth,” the pope concludes.

 

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