VATICAN CITY, DEC. 21, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The event of Jesus’ birth should prompt Christians to practice charity, says the head of the Vatican dicastery that organizes and manages the Pope’s charitable works.
ZENIT interviewed Archbishop Paul Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” about the true meaning of Christmas.
Q: Why do Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth?
Archbishop Cordes: This question, which seems superfluous, must be answered again today in a spirit of faith, whether in reference to some of our contemporaries or to some politicians. God, almighty Creator of the universe, before whose incommensurable dimensions astronomy is ever more astonished, has sent his Son to us as a sign of his love and of his will to save us.
In fact, by increasingly obfuscating the profound reason for the celebration of his birth, modern man’s culture and habits of life are unable to keep alive the truths of Christianity. Therefore, the Gospel needs heralds and witnesses to forge people’s lives.
Q: What meaning and mystery is hidden behind the decision of the Son of God to become man?
Archbishop Cordes: It has been revealed, to us Christians, that God is love. This is not so, for example, in the case of Islam, for which there is an unapproachable and hidden author of a law, whose will alone can be known by men.
For us, God has a face, and we can say “You” to him. Moreover, he has a Son, because his love is not sterile, but dynamic and creative. Therefore, if the fact of being able to establish an I-You relationship with God distinguishes biblical Revelation in an unfathomable way from the Koran, much more so does the fatherhood of God!
In the Koran, Allah has 99 names, but never the name Father. On the contrary, it would be a scandalous sacrilege for a Muslim to assert that Allah has a son.
In the centuries preceding his birth, Jesus was anxiously awaited by the Chosen People. The Old Testament is an impressive document of the hope of salvation and liberation by Yahweh. In the fullness of time God finally sent his Son, born of the Virgin Mary. Thus, in him he was able to begin the history of redemption, because God has the power to efface sin. Only Christ’s divine nature could do this.
In his divinity, Jesus has effaced all of humanity’s offenses, those of ancestors, those of every day and also our own, those hidden or denied. Faults, as we know, are the root of all misery and despair.
Christians take the example of the birth of the Savior to practice charity, love toward one’s neighbor, understood not as philanthropy, but as a commitment of truth and faith.
Q: Can you explain the meaning of Christian charity, and in what way the Vatican dicastery you head practices charity?
Archbishop Cordes: The Apostle John exhorts us not to love just with words, but with deeds and in truth. It is expected from us that our charity be visible and reflected in concrete works.
To do good in this sense means that people should alleviate suffering and promote greater justice. Moreover, Christians are fully aware that they cannot keep the love they received from the Redeemer to themselves.
Therefore, the source of their charity is not human capacity, but a gift of God. Thus the love that comes from God must also embrace one’s enemy. It goes beyond human liking.
We in “Cor Unum” give signs of this love and of participation in the name of the Holy Father in situations of particular need. We also inspire in a Christian manner the remarkable and effective work of many charitable organizations in the world.
Q: What are the ways and actions that you would indicate to celebrate Christmas worthily?
Archbishop Cordes: In addition to gifts, affection for parents, friends and neighbors, for me it is part of Christmas to become ever more like Christ, born as our brother. Listening to the Word of God, prayer, the sacrament of penance and the celebration of the Eucharist help us to make this feast an event of Christian faith.