Saturday, 2 February 2008

Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne: part 2

2. Forgetfulness of God and the call to a meeting with Jesus Christ

“During these days, you can once again have a moving experience of prayer as dialogue with God, the God who we know loves us and whom we in turn wish to love. To all of you I appeal: Open wide your hearts to God! Let yourselves be surprised by Christ! Let him have ‘the right of free speech’ during these days! Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love! Share your joys and pains with Christ, and let him enlighten your minds with his light and touch your hearts with his grace. In these days blessed with sharing and joy, may you have a liberating experience of the Church as the place where God's merciful love reaches out to all people. In the Church and through the Church you will meet Christ, who is waiting for you.”[1]

2.1 The forgetfulness of God in contemporary life

During the Vigil and the concluding Mass for World Youth Day, Pope Benedict referred to the absence of God from contemporary life in two ways. In his homily during Mass, he referred to the experience of life today that seems to leave God out altogether:

“In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him. But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything. People tend to exclaim: ‘This cannot be what life is about!’Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery. Yet if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a ‘do-it-yourself’ basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves. Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction.”[2]

In encouraging young people to be faithful to their participation in Sunday Mass, the Pope referred to the emptiness of free time that has no place for God:

“It is good that today, in many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday so as to constitute a ‘weekend’ of free time. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present.”[3]

2.2 The forgetfulness of God in recent history

In the homily given during the Vigil at Marienfeld, Pope Benedict put this contemporary experience of an absence of God from daily life into a historical context:

“Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world. In the last century we experienced revolutions with a common program -- expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for the cause of the world in order to change it. And this, as we saw, meant that a human and partial point of view was always taken as an absolute guiding principle. Absolutizing what is not absolute but relative is called totalitarianism. It does not liberate man, but takes away his dignity and enslaves him. It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true. True revolution consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?”[4]

2.3 A call to a meeting with Jesus Christ

The theme for the twentieth World Youth Day in Cologne was: “We have come to worship him”[5]. The words are those of the Magi, whose relics reside in Cologne Cathedral. They are taken from the Gospel of Matthew.

In his homily during his first meeting with young people, Pope Benedict compared the question of the Magi - “Where is the infant King of the Jews?” - to the questions that young people were asking as they gathered in Cologne:

“It is true that today we are no longer looking for a king, but we are concerned for the state of the world and we are asking: ‘Where do I find standards to live by, what are the criteria that govern responsible cooperation in building the present and the future of our world? On whom can I rely? To whom shall I entrust myself? Where is the One who can offer me the response capable of satisfying my heart's deepest desires?’”[6]

After referring to Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist, Pope Benedict continued:

“Dear young people, the happiness you are seeking, the happiness you have a right to enjoy has a name and a face: It is Jesus of Nazareth, hidden in the Eucharist. Only he gives the fullness of life to humanity! With Mary, say your own ‘yes’ to God, for he wishes to give himself to you. I repeat today what I said at the beginning of my pontificate: ‘If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation’ (Homily at the Mass of Inauguration, April 24). Be completely convinced of this: Christ takes from you nothing that is beautiful and great, but brings everything to perfection for the glory of God, the happiness of men and women, and the salvation of the world.”[7]

When Pope Benedict met with seminarians, the theme of his address was that of coming to knowledge of Jesus Christ, of growing in friendship with Him, as preparation for the mission of being a priest in the Church:

“The seminary years are a time of journeying, of exploration, but above all of discovering Christ. It is only when a young man has had a personal experience of Christ that he can truly understand the Lord’s will and consequently his own vocation. The better you know Jesus the more his mystery attracts you. The more you discover him, the more you are moved to seek him. This is a movement of the spirit which lasts throughout life, and which makes the seminary a time of immense promise, a true ‘springtime.’…..

“May Christ be everything for you. Dear seminarians, be the first to offer him what is most precious to you, as Pope John Paul II suggested in his Message for this World Youth Day: the gold of your freedom, the incense of your ardent prayer, the myrrh of your most profound affection (cf. No. 4).”[8]

[1] Pope Benedict XVI Address to young people on the banks of the River Rhine, 18th August 2005.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI Homily during the closing Mass for World Youth Day, Marienfeld, Cologne 21st August 2005.
[3] Pope Benedict XVI Homily during the closing Mass for World Youth Day, Marienfeld, Cologne 21st August 2005.
[4] Pope Benedict XVI Homily during the Vigil for World Youth Day, Marienfeld, Cologne 20th August 2005.
[5] Matthew 2:2.
[6] Pope Benedict XVI Address to young people on the banks of the River Rhine, 18th August 2005.
[7] Pope Benedict XVI Address to young people on the banks of the River Rhine, 18th August 2005.
[8] Pope Benedict XVI Address during meeting with Seminarians in Cologne 19th August 2005.

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