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When "We Are Not Pursuing the Child's Good …"ROME, DEC. 25, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the liturgical readings for next Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family.
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Sunday after Christmas: Feast of the Holy Family
1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28; 1 John 3:1-2,21-24; Luke 2:41-52
On the family
"Son, why have you done this to us? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety." In these words of Mary we see that all three of the essential components of a family are mentioned: father, mother and child. This year we cannot talk about the family without touching on the problem that in the present moment is most disturbing society and causing the Church concern: the discussion in Parliament about the recognition of cohabiting couples.
The state cannot be prevented from responding to new situations present in society, from recognizing some civil rights of persons, even of the same sex, who have decided to live together. That which is essential for the Church -- and which must be essential for all those interested in the future good of society -- is that this is not translated into a weakening of the institution of the family, which is already so threatened by modern society.
We know that the best way to weaken a reality or a word is to thin it out, to make it banal, making it embrace different and even contradictory things. This happens if homosexual couples are put on the same footing with a marriage between a man and a woman. The meaning itself of the word "matrimony" -- from the Latin for maternal office -- reveals the insensitivity of such a project.
Above all, I must say that I just do not see the reason for making these two things equal, given that there are other ways of safeguarding the rights in question. I do not understand the suggestion that there has been an offense to the dignity of homosexual persons whom all today feel the need to respect and love. I know personally the rectitude and suffering of some of these persons.
What we are saying applies even more to the problem of homosexual couples adopting children. Adoption by homosexual couples is unacceptable because it is an adoption exclusively for the benefit of the couple and not the child, who could just as well be adopted by a normal couple, that is, by a father and mother. There are many who have been waiting for years.
Homosexual women have a maternal instinct and they want to satisfy it by adopting a child; homosexual men experience the need to see a young life grow beside them and want to satisfy this need by adopting a child. But what attention is given to the needs and sentiments of the child in this case? Rather than having a father and mother, the child will find himself having two mothers or two fathers with all the psychological problems and problems of identity that this brings with it in and outside the home. At school, what effect will this situation, which makes the child different from his companions, have on the child?
Adoption is disturbed in its deeper significance: It is no longer a giving of something but a looking for something. True love, Paul says, "does not seek its own interests." It is true that even in normal adoptions the parents sometimes seek their own good. They want to have someone with whom they can share their reciprocal love, someone who can benefit from all their labors. But in this case the good of those who adopt coincides with that of the adoptees, it is not opposed to it. Objectively speaking, we are not pursuing the child's good but his harm if we allow him to be adopted by a homosexual couple when it would have been possible for him to be adopted by a normal couple.
The Gospel passage of the feast ends with a small portrait of family life that gives us insight into the whole life of Jesus from 12 to 30 years: "He went with them and returned to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom, age and grace before God and men." May the Virgin obtain for all the children of the world the gift to be able to grow up in grace surrounded by the affection of a father and a mother.
Pontifical Household Preacher on Sunday's GospelROME, DEC. 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of a commentary by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on the readings from the liturgy of Christmas.
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Why did God become man?
Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-16; John 1:1-18
Let us go right to the apex of the prologue of John's Gospel, which is read at the third Mass on Christmas day.
In the Credo there is a line that on this day we recite on our knees: "For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven." This is the fundamental and perennially valid answer to the question -- "Why did the word become flesh?" -- but it needs to be understood and integrated.
The question put another way is in fact: "Why did he become man 'for our salvation?'" Only because we had sinned and needed to be saved?
There is a vein of the theology inaugurated by Blessed Duns Scotus, a Franciscan theologian, which loosens a too exclusive connection to man's sin and regards God's glory as the primary reason for the Incarnation. "God decreed the incarnation of his Son in order to have someone outside of him who loved him in the highest way, in a way worthy of God."
This answer, though beautiful, is still not the definitive one. For the Bible the most important thing is not, as it was for Greek philosophers, that God be loved, but that God "loves" and loved first (cf. 1 John 4:10, 19). God willed the incarnation of the Son not so much as to have someone outside the Trinity that would love him worthily as to have someone to love in a way worthy of him, that is, to love without measure!
At Christmas, when the child Jesus is born, God the Father has someone to love in an infinite way because Jesus is together man and God. But not only Jesus, but us together with him. We are included in this love, having become members of the body of Christ, "sons in the Son." John's prologue reminds of this: "To those who welcomed him he gave the power to become sons of God."
Therefore, Christ did descend from heaven "for our salvation," but what moved him to come down for our salvation was love, nothing else but love.
Christmas is the supreme proof of God's "philanthropy," as Scripture calls it (Titus 3:4), that is, of God's love (philea) for man (anthropos). John too responds to the why of the Incarnation in this way: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever should believe in him would not die but have life everlasting" (John 3:16).
So, what should be our response to the message of Christmas? The Christmas carol "Adeste Fideles" says: "How can we not love one who has so loved us?"
There is much that we can do to solemnize Christmas, but the truest and most profound thing is suggested to us by these words. A sincere thought of gratitude, a feeling of love for him who came to live among us is the best gift we can give to the child Jesus, the most beautiful ornament in the manger.
To be sincere, however, love needs to be translated into concrete gestures. The simplest and most universal -- when it is pure and innocent -- is the kiss.
Let us kiss Jesus, then, as we desire to kiss all children just born. But let us not just kiss the statue of plaster or porcelain but the child Jesus in flesh and blood. When we have kissed those who are wretched, suffering, we have kissed him!
To kiss someone, in this sense, is to help in a real way, but it is also to speak a good word, to give encouragement, to pay a visit, to smile, and sometimes -- why not -- to give an actual kiss. These are the most beautiful candles that we can light in our manger.
"Fix Your Gaze on the Child"VATICAN CITY, DEC. 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI gave to the university students and professors of Rome gathered in St. Peter's Basilica on Dec. 14.
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ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO THE TEACHERS AND STUDENTS
OF ROMAN UNIVERSITIES
St Peter's Basilica
Thursday, 14 December 2006
This year too, I have the welcome opportunity of meeting the Roman university world and of exchanging greetings with you for Holy Christmas, which is now at hand. I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini who has presided at the Eucharistic celebration and guided you in reflection on the liturgical texts. I next thank the Rector of the Rome III University and the young student, both of whom have spoken on behalf of your learned assembly. I offer my affectionate greeting to each and every one.
We are meeting just before Christmas, which is the feast of gifts, as I recalled last Sunday when I visited the new Roman parish dedicated to Our Lady Star of Evangelization. Christmas gifts evoke the gift par excellence which the Son of God made of himself and offered to us in the Incarnation.
For this reason, Christmas is appropriately emphasized by the many gifts that people give to one another in these days. But it is important that the principal Gift of which all other gifts are a symbol not be forgotten. Christmas is the day on which God gave himself to humanity, and in the Eucharist this gift of his becomes, so to speak, perfect.
Under the appearance of a little piece of bread, as I said to the children of the above-mentioned Roman parish who are preparing for First Communion and Confirmation, it is really Jesus who gives himself and wishes to enter our hearts.
Dear young people, this year you are reflecting precisely on the theme of the Eucharist, as you follow the spiritual and pastoral programme prepared by the Diocese of Rome.
The Eucharistic mystery is the privileged point of convergence between the various contexts of Christian life, including that of intellectual research.
Encountered in the liturgy and contemplated in adoration, Jesus in the Eucharist is like a "prism" through which one can penetrate further into reality, in the ascetic and mystical, the intellectual and speculative, as well as the historical and moral perspectives.
In the Eucharist, Christ is really present and Holy Mass is a living memorial of his Pasch. The Blessed Sacrament is the qualitative centre of the cosmos and of history. Therefore, it constitutes an inexhaustible source of thought and action for anyone who sets out to seek the truth and desires to cooperate with it.
It is, so to speak, a "concentrate" of truth and love. It not only illumines human knowledge, but also and above all human action and human life, in accordance with "the truth in love" (Eph 4:15), as St Paul said, in the daily task of acting as Jesus himself did.
Thus, the Eucharist fosters in those who nourish themselves on it with perseverance and faith a fruitful unity between contemplation and action.
Dear friends, let us enter into the mystery of Christmas, now approaching, through the "door" of the Eucharist; in the grotto of Bethlehem let us adore the Lord himself who, in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, desired to make himself our spiritual food to transform the world from within, starting with the human heart.
I know that for many of you, university students of Rome, it is now a custom at the beginning of the academic year to go on a special diocesan pilgrimage to Assisi, and I know that many of you took part in the recent one, too.
Well, were not St Francis and St Clare both "conquered" by the Eucharistic Mystery? In the Eucharist they experienced the love of God, that same love which, in the Incarnation, impelled the Creator of the world to make himself little, indeed, the smallest one and the servant of all.
Dear friends, as you prepare for Holy Christmas, may you nourish the same sentiments as these great Saints, so beloved by the Italian People. Like them, fix your gaze on the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger (cf. Lk 2:7,12,16).
Learn from the Virgin Mary, the first person to contemplate the humanity of the Incarnate Word, the humanity of Divine Wisdom. In the Baby Jesus, with whom she had infinite and silent conversations, she recognized the human Face of God, so that the mysterious Wisdom of the Son was impressed on the Mother's mind and heart.
So it was that Mary became the "Seat of Wisdom", and with this title is venerated in particular by the Roman Academic Community.
A special Icon is dedicated to the Sedes Sapientiae. From Rome it has already visited various countries on a pilgrimage to university institutions. It is present here today, so that it may be passed on from the delegation which has come here from Bulgaria to the one which has come from Albania.
I greet with affection the representatives of both these Nations and express the wish that per Mariam their respective academic communities may advance ever further in their search for truth and goodness, in the light of Divine Wisdom.
I warmly address this wish to each one of you present here and I accompany it with a special Blessing which I willingly extend to all your loved ones. Merry Christmas!
[Translation issued by the Holy See]
© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Father Cantalamessa on the Peacemakers
Delivers Advent Meditation in the Vatican
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 23, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Advent sermon delivered Friday by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household preacher, in the presence of Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia in preparation for Christmas.
Preaching in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace, Father Cantalamessa continued a series of meditations on the beatitudes.
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"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God"
1. The Holy Father's Message for the world day of peace
The beatitudes are not arranged according to a logical order. Except for the first one, which sets the tone for all the others, each one can be considered separately without its meaning being in the least compromised.
The Pope's message for the World Day of Peace has made me decide to dedicate our meeting today to the beatitude about the peacemakers and to postpone for another time my reflections on the third beatitude, the one about the meek. Let us hope that the message of peace, directed to the whole world, be above all accepted, meditated on, and bear fruit here among us, at the center of the Church.
This year message is for peace in all areas, from the more personal ambit to the more vast ones of politics, economy, ecology, and international organizations. These are different fields, but they are united by the fact that all have the human person as their primary object, as the title of the message indicates "The Human Person: Heart of Peace."
There is a fundamental affirmation in the message that is the interpretive key of the whole. The Holy Father says: "Peace is both gift and task. If it is true that peace between individuals and peoples -- the ability to live together and to build relationships of justice and solidarity -- calls for unfailing commitment on our part, it is also true, and indeed more so, that peace is a gift from God.
"Peace is an aspect of God's activity, made manifest both in the creation of an orderly and harmonious universe and also in the redemption of humanity that needs to be rescued from the disorder of sin. Creation and Redemption thus provide a key that helps us begin to understand the meaning of our life on earth."
These words help us to understand the beatitude of the peacemakers and this beatitude, in turn, throws light on these words of the Pope's message. The nearness of Christmas sets a particular tone, a liturgical one, to our meditation. On Christmas night we will hear the words of the angelic hymn: "Peace on earth to men loved by the Lord." The meaning of these words is not may there be peace, but rather there is peace. "The birth of the Lord," St. Gregory the Great said, "is the birth of peace": Natalis Domini natalis est pacis.
2. Who are the peacemakers?
The seventh beatitude says: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Along with the beatitude about the merciful, this one does not speak so much about how we must "be" (poor, afflicted, meek, pure of heart) but about what we must "do." The Greek term "eirenopoioi" means those who work for peace, who "make peace." Not so much, however, in the sense of being reconciled with our enemies as in the sense of helping enemies to be reconciled with each other. "What we are dealing with here are people who so love peace that they have no fear of compromising their own personal peace when they intervene in conflicts to help those who are divided to find peace."
Peacemakers are not synonymous, then, with the peaceful or pacific, that is, tranquil, calm persons who avoid contrariety as much as possible (they are proclaimed blessed by another beatitude, that of the meek); neither are peacemakers synonymous with pacifists, if by pacifists we mean those who are against war (with great frequency, against one of the two sides in a war!) but who do nothing to reconcile the combatants. The most just term is pacifier.
In New Testament times the rulers were called the peacemakers, above all the Roman Empire. Augustus Caesar put world peace as his top accomplishment, which he achieved through military victory (parta victoriis pax). He built the famous Ara pacis, the Altar of Peace, in Rome as a testament of his legacy.
Some have understood the Gospel beatitude to be intentionally opposed to this position and to have pointed to the true peacemakers are the true way in which peace is promoted: through victory, yes, but victory over themselves, not over their enemies, not by destroying the enemy, but by destroying enmity, as Jesus did on the cross (Ephesians 2:16).
Today, however, the prevalent view is that this beatitude must be read according to the Bible and the Jewish sources in which helping people in discord to reconcile and live in peace is seen as one of the principal works of mercy. On Christ's lips the beatitude of the peacemakers is derived from the new commandment of fraternal love, it is a way in which love of neighbor expresses itself.
In this sense we would say that this is the beatitude par excellence of the Church of Rome and of her bishop. One of the more precious services that the papacy has rendered to Christianity has always been to promote peace among the various churches, and, in certain eras, also among the first Christians. The first apostolic letter of a Pope, that of St. Clement I, written around the year 96, (perhaps even before the fourth Gospel) had the purpose of returning peace to the Church of Corinth which was divided by discord. It is a service that cannot be rendered without some sort of real juridical authority. If we want to see the value of this service we just need to look at those situations where it is absent.
The history of the Church is full of episodes in which local churches, bishops or abbots, arguing among themselves or with their flocks, have turned to the pope as an arbiter of peace. I am certain that even today this is one of the more frequent services, even if little known, of the pope to the universal Church. Equally the Vatican diplomacy and the apostolic nuncios find their justification in being instruments at the service of peace.
3. Peace as a gift
But God himself, and not man, is the true and supreme "peacemaker." It is for this reason that those who work for peace are called "sons of God." They resemble God, imitate him, they do what he does. The Pope's message says that peace is characteristic of the divine action in the creation and redemption, whether in God's action or in Christ's.
Scripture speaks of the "peace of God" (Philippians 4:7) and more often of the "God of peace" (Romans 15:32). Here peace does not mean what God does or gives, but also what God is. Peace is what reigns in God. Almost all the religions that flourished around the Bible know divine worlds marked by internal warfare. Babylonian and Greek myths about the world's coming into being speak of divinities at war with each other and tearing each other to pieces. In heretical gnostic sects in Christianity there is no unity and peace between the celestial Aeons, and the material world is supposed to be the fruit of an accident and a disharmony in the higher world.
Against this religious background we can better grasp the novelty and the absolute otherness of the doctrine of the Trinity as perfect unity of love in the plurality of persons. In one of her hymns, the Church calls the Trinity an "ocean of peace," and this is not only a bit of poetry. The thing that is most striking when we contemplate Rublev's icon of the Trinity (reproduced in this chapel in the front wall, over the enthroned Virgin) is the sense of superhuman peace that emanates from it. The painter has succeeded in translating into an image the motto of St. Serge of Radonezh, for whose monastery the icon was painted: "Contemplating the Most Holy Trinity, overcome the hateful disharmony of this world."
The one who has best celebrated this divine Peace that comes from beyond history, was Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite. Peace is for him one of the "names of God" just as "love" is. Even of Christ it is said that he "is" himself our peace (Ephesians 2:14-17). When he says, "My peace I give to you," he transmits that which he is.
There is an inseparable link between peace gift from above and the Holy Spirit; it's not without reason that both are represented symbolically with a dove. In the afternoon on Easter Jesus gave, in practically the same instant, to this disciples peace and the Holy Spirit: "Peace be with you!" ... He blew over them and said to them "Recieve the Holy Spirit" (John 20: 21-22). Peace, says St. Paul, is a "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22).
It is then understood what it means to be a peacemaker. It is not about inventing or creating peace but of transmitting it, letting in the peace of God and of Christ "that transcends all understanding." "Grace and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7). This is the peace that the Apostle passes on to the Christians of Rome.
We must not, nor can we be, the origin but only the channel of peace. The prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi expresses this perfectly: "Lord, make me a channel of your peace."
But what is the peace of which we speak? The definition of peace proposed by Augustine has become classic: "Peace is the tranquility of order." Taking this definition, St. Thomas says that in man there exist three types of order: order with oneself, with God, and with our neighbor, and, in consequence, there exist three forms of peace: interior peace, by which man is at peace with himself; the peace whereby man is at peace with God, submitting himself fully to God's dispositions; and the peace relative to one's neighbor, by which we live in peace with all men."
In the Bible, however, shalom, peace, says more than simply tranquility of order. It also means well-being, repose, security, success, glory. Indeed, sometimes it means the totality of the messianic goods and is synonymous with salvation and goodness: "How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of good news on the mountains, he who announces peace, the messenger of goodness and of salvation" (Isaiah 52:7). The new covenant is called a "covenant of peace" (Ezekiel 37:26) and the Gospel is called the "Gospel of peace" (Ephesians 6:15), as if the word "peace" summarized the whole content of the covenant and the Gospel.
In the Old Testament, peace is often side by side with justice (Psalm 85:11, "Justice and peace shall kiss") and in the New Testament it is side by side with grace. When Paul writes: "Justified by faith we are at peace with God" (Romans 5:1), it is clear that "at peace with God" has the same pregnant meaning as "in the grace of God."
4. Peace as a task
The Pope's message also says that besides being a gift, peace is also a task. It is of peace as a task the beatitudes speak to us in the first place.
The condition for being a channel of peace is being in union with its source, which is the will of God. "In his will is our peace," says a soul in Dante's purgatory. The secret to interior peace is total and ever renewed abandonment to the will of God. To maintain or find this peace of heart again it helps to repeat the words of St. Teresa of Avila often to ourselves: "Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. Everything is passing, only God remains. Patience overcomes everything. Nothing is lacking to those who have God. God alone suffices."
The apostolic preaching is rich with practical indications about what makes for and what is an obstacle to peace. One of the better known passages is that of the Letter of James: "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace" (James 3:16-18).
From this very personal sphere must begin every effort to bring about peace. Peace is like the wake of a great ship that expands toward the infinite but begins as a point, and the point in this case is the heart of man. John Paul II's message for the World Day of Peace in 1984 bore the title: "Peace is Born in a New Heart."
But it is not on this personal sphere that I want to focus. Today a new, difficult, and urgent field of work is opening up to peacemakers: promoting peace between religions and with religion, that is, promoting peace between different religions and between the various religions and the secular, non-believing world. The Pope dedicates a paragraph of his message to this field.
The Pope writes: "As far as the free expression of personal faith is concerned, another disturbing symptom of lack of peace in the world is represented by the difficulties that both Christians and the followers of other religions frequently encounter in publicly and freely professing their religious convictions…
"There are regimes that impose a single religion upon everyone, while secular regimes often lead not so much to violent persecution as to systematic cultural denigration of religious beliefs. In both instances, a fundamental human right is not being respected, with serious repercussions for peaceful coexistence. This can only promote a mentality and culture that is not conducive to peace."
In the present moment we have and example of this cultural derision, or at least marginalization, of religious beliefs with the campaign in different European countries and cities against the religious symbols of Christmas. The reason often given for this is the desire to not offend persons of other religions among us, especially the Muslims. But it is a pretext, an excuse. In reality it is not the Muslims who do not want these symbols but a certain non-believing group in society. Muslims have nothing against the Christian celebration of Christmas, indeed, they honor it.
We have arrived at a rather absurd juncture: On the one hand, many Muslims celebrate the birth of Jesus and want a creche in their house and say that "those who do not believe in the miraculous birth of Jesus are not Muslim," while others call themselves Christians who want to make Christmas a "winter festival" populated only by reindeer and teddy-bears.
In the Qur'an there is a Sura worth knowing (also as an aid in friendly dialogue between religions) that is dedicated to the birth of Jesus:
"The angels said, 'O Mary! Allâh gives you good tidings through a word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary. He shall be worthy of regard in this world and in the hereafter… 'And he will speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and shall be of the righteous.' Mary said, 'My Lord, how can I have a child when no man has yet touched me?' He said, 'In this way: Allâh creates what He will. When He decides something He simply says "be" and it is.'"
In an episode of the RAI 1 program "In His Image," which is on the Sunday Gospel, and which will air tomorrow evening, I asked a Muslim brother to read this passage and he did so with great joy, saying that he was happy to clear matters up about something which other Muslims have rendered confused with the pretext of advancing their cause.
What that allows for a dialogue between religions -- founded not only the reasons that we know well, but rather on a solid theological foundation -- is that "we alll have a single God," as the Holy Father recalled when he visited the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. It is with this same truth that St. Paul began his discourse at the Areopagus in Athens (cf. Acts 17:28).
Subjectively we have different ideas about God. For us Christians God is "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," whom we do not know except "through him," but objectively we know well that God can only be one. There is "only one God, Father of all, who is above all, who acts in all, and is present in all" (Ephesians 4:6).
Our faith in the Holy Spirit is also a theological foundation for dialogue. As the Spirit of the redemption, and Spirit of grace, he is the bond of peace among the baptized and of the different Christian confessions; as the Spirit of creation, Spiritus creator, he is the bond of peace among the believers of all religions and indeed among all men of good will. "Every truth, whoever pronounces it," says St. Thomas Aquinas, "comes from the Holy Spirit." 
The recent trip of the Holy Father to Turkey was on behalf of religious peace, which has shown itself to have produced rich fruit, as do all things that are born from the womb of the cross: peace between the Eastern and Western Christian Church, between Christianity and Islam. On the occasion of his silent prayer at the Blue Mosque the Holy Father said that "this visit will help us to find together the means and the roads to peace for the good of humanity."
5. Peace without religion?
To tell the truth, the secularized West hopes for a different type of religious peace, one that would result from the disappearance of religion:
"Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky. Imagine all the people, living for today. Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people, living for today. Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.
"Imagine all the people, living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one."
This song, written by one of the idols of modern rock music, with its suave melody, has become a kind of secular manifesto of pacifism. If that which is envisioned here were to be realized, the world would be poorer and more squalid than we can imagine. It would be a drab world in which all differences were abolished, where people are destined, not to peace, but to tear each other apart because -- as René Girard has shown -- where everyone wants the same thing, the "mimetic desire" will be unleashed and with it rivalry and war.
We believers must not allow ourselves to fall into resentment and polemics not even with the secularized world. Alongside dialogue and peace between religions, there is another aim of peacemakers: that of peace between believers and non-believers, between religious persons and the secular world, indifferent or hostile to religion.
It will be difficult this test: to give a reason, with firmness, for the hope in us, but to do so, as St. Peter says, "with sweetness and respect" (1 Peter 2:15-16). Respect does not mean in this case "human respect," keeping Jesus hidden so as not to excite reactions. It is a respect of an interiority that is known only to God and that no one can violate for constrain us to change. It is not putting Jesus into parentheses, but rather a showing forth of Jesus and the Gospel through our lives. We ask only that an equal respect be shown by others to Christians, something which so far has often been lacking.
We end returning with a thought on Christmas. An old response of evening prayer for Christmas said: "Hodie nobis de caelo pax vera descendit. Hodie per totum mundum melliflui facti sunt caeli" (Today true peace has come down from heaven for us. Today the heavens distill honey over the world).
How can we correspond to the infinite gift that our Father gave to the world, giving his only son? If there is one faux paux that we should not commit during Christmas, it is to recycle a gift and give it back to the person that gave it to us. But with God, we can't help but do this continuously! The only act of thanksgiving possible is the Eucharist: Giving back Jesus, his son, our brother.
And what gift do we give to Jesus? A text of the oriental rite for Christmas says: "What can we offer to you, Christ, for having become man on Earth? Every creature gives you a sign of recognition: The angels their songs, the heavens their star, the earth a cave, the desert a manger. But we offer to you a virgin mother!"
Holy Father, venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters: thanks for your kind attention and Merry Christmas!
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 Benedict XVI, "The Human Person: The Heart of Peace," Message for the World Day of Peace, 2007, §3.
 St. Leo the Great, "Treatises," 26 (CC 138, line 130).
 J. Dupont, "Le beatitudini," III, p.1001.
 Pseudo Dionysius the Areopagite, "The Divine Names," XI, 1 s (PG 3, 948 s).
 St. Augustine, "The City of God," XIX, 13 (CC 48, 679).
 Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on the Gospel of John," XIV, lect.VII, n.1962.
 Magdi Allan, "Noi musulmani diciamo sì al presepe," Il Corriere della sera, Dec. 18, 2006, p. 18.
 Qur'an, Sura III.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, "Summa Theologiae," I-IIae q. 109, a. 1 ad 1; Ambrosiaster, On the First Letter to the Corinthians, 12, 3 (CSEL 81, 132).
 John Lennon.
 Idiomelon of the Vespers for Christmas.