Christ Wants a Loving Heart as a Birthplace, Says Preacher

Last Meditation at Vatican in Preparation for Christmas

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Christ again seeks a loving heart as his birthplace this Christmas, the Papal Household preacher said in his third and final Advent meditation for the Pope and Roman Curia.



Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa dedicated his reflection, held today in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Vatican, to meditate on the central role of Jesus in the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The meaning of Mother Teresa's "whole life was a person: Jesus," the Papal Household preacher said. For her, Christ "was not something abstract, a collection of doctrines or dogmas, or the memory of a person who lived in another time."

"He was a living Jesus, real -- someone whose heart she could look at and whom she allowed to look at her," he added.

To the question, "Who is Jesus for me?" the founder of the Missionaries of Charity replied with a series of titles: "Jesus is the life that must be lived"; "he is the love that must be loved"; "he is the joy that must be shared"; "he is the sacrifice that must be offered"; "he is the peace that must be taken."

The preacher recalled one of Mother Teresa's best-known phrases: "The fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace."

"Both -- love of Jesus and service to the poorest of the poor -- were born together," he said.

For Mother Teresa, Jesus was present "in the disconcerting disguise of the poor," the Capuchin said. "Mother Teresa, with an abandoned child in her arms, or bending over the dying, is, I believe, the very image of the tenderness of God."

"Mother Teresa not only was able to give bread, clothes and medicines to the poor; she also gave them something that they needed even more: love, human warmth, dignity," the priest explained. "She recalled with shock the episode of the man she found half-eaten by maggots in a garbage can.

"After taking him to her house and caring for him, the man said to her: 'Sister, I have lived on the street like an animal, but now I will die like an angel, loved, and cared for.'"

"He died a few minutes later saying with a smile: 'Sister, I am going to God's house,'" the priest recalled.

In this way, Mother Teresa reminded us that "real greatness among men is not measured by the power one exercises, but by the service one gives," he said.

In this service, he added, one finds "the exercise of authority and of the ecclesiastical magisterium," as that offered by the Pope.

This is how the title "servant of the servants of God" can be explained, Father Cantalamessa said. The title was introduced by Pope St. Gregory the Great and -- the priest said after asking the Holy Father's permission -- constitutes the résumé of these 25 years of pontificate.

The papal preacher ended by applying his reflections to Christmas: A loving heart is the only Bethlehem that Christ wants at Christmas.

Mother Teresa reminds us today that "the secret of her service to the poor and of the whole of her life" was "the love of Jesus," the priest said. He added that this is "the secret to celebrate a real Christmas."