God's "benevolent plan" for mankind, which begins St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians, was the theme of Pope Benedict's address on December 4 at a general audience in Rome. Recalling a passage in the New Testament in which the apostle praised God, the Pope said that he "introduces us to living in the time of Advent, in the context of the Year of Faith. The theme of this hymn of praise is God's plan for mankind, defined in terms of joy, stupefaction and thankfulness, ... of mercy and love."
The Apostle Paul blessed God because he "looked upon his actions throughout the history of salvation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus, and contemplated how the celestial Father chose us, even before the foundation of the world, to become His adoptive children, in his only Son, Jesus Christ. ... God's 'benevolent plan', which the Apostle also describes as a 'plan of love', is defined as 'the mystery' of divine will, hidden and then disclosed in the Person and work of Christ. The initiative precedes any human response; it is the freely given gift of his love, which envelops and transforms us.
"What is the ultimate aim of this mysterious plan? It is to recapitulate all things in Christ; "this means that in the great design of creation and history, Christ is placed at the center of the world's entire path, as the axis upon which everything turns, drawing all of reality to Him, in order to overcome dispersion and limits, and to lead all to fullness in God".
However, "this benevolent plan", explained Pope Benedict, "did not remain concealed in God's silence, in the heights of His Heaven; instead, He brought it to our knowledge by entering into a relationship with man, to whom He revealed His very being. He did not simply communicate a series of truths, but instead He communicated Himself to us, He showed Himself as one of us, to the extent of taking on human flesh. ... This communion in Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, offered by God to all mankind in the light of His self- revelation, does not merely correspond to our humanity, but is instead the fulfilment of its deepest aspirations, and introduces it to a joy which is neither temporal nor limited, but eternal".
"In view of this, what is, then, the act of faith? It is man's response to God's self-revelation, by which He shows His 'benevolent plan' for humanity," said the pontiff, adding ". ... it is allowing oneself to be seized by God's Truth, a Truth that is Love. ... All this leads to a ... true 'conversion', a 'change of mentality', because the God Who has revealed Himself to us in Christ and has shown us His plan captures us and draws us to Him, becoming the meaning that sustains our life and the rock on which it finds stability".
The leader of the world's Catholics concluding that the period leading to the celebration of Christmas, or the Nativity of the Lord, "places us before the luminous mystery of the coming of the Son of God and the great 'benevolent plan' by which He sought to draw us to Him, to allow us to live in full communion of joy and peace with Him. Advent invites us, in spite of the many difficulties we encounter, to renew our certainty of the presence of God: He came into the world, in human flesh like ours, to fully realize his plan of love. And God asks that we too become signs of His action in the world. Through our faith, hope and charity, He wishes us to make His light shine anew in our night".
The Pope released in November the third and last volume of his work, Jesus of Nazareth. Speaking about the volume, William Donohue of the Catholic League, wrote in a statement "Pope BenedictXVI’s last volume of his trilogy, Jesus of Nazareth, is appropriately subtitled, The Infancy Narratives. The pope takes the reader on a walk through the virgin birth and Jesus’ early years, offering sage observations about these events and related subjects along the way. This slim volume is the perfect gift this Christmas season."