By drawing near to God, we are able to overcome our weakness and find lasting joy and happiness, Pope Benedict XVI told the faithful today at his weekly General Audience.
As an example, the Holy Father held up St. Gregory Nazianzus, 4th century Doctor of the Church, in the second of a two-part reflection on the saint’s life.
“The life and teaching of Saint Gregory are a celebration of the divine love which is revealed in Christ”, the Pope told the pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI auditorium. “He felt the need to draw near to God to overcome his very real weariness”.
Benedict XVI recalled that for him, “within the drama of a life weighed down by the realization of weakness and misery, the knowledge and experience of God’s love always predominated. You have the duty of the soul, St Gregory tells us, the duty to find the true light, to find the true heights of your life.”
St. Gregory led by example, using his talents for the glory of God, the Pope explained, in particular his academic and oratory skills in countering controversies of the day. He forcefully defended the Church’s faith in one God in three equal and distinct persons, the Pope recalled, and upheld the full humanity of Christ. “To redeem man in his whole body, soul and spirit, Christ had to assume every part of human nature, otherwise man would not have been saved”, the Pope explained. “Against the heresy of Apollinare, who believed Jesus Christ had not assumed a rational soul, Gregory confronts the problem with the light of the mystery of the salvation”.
Quoting the 4th century saint, he said: ‘What was not assumed, was not cured’. If Christ ‘had not been given a rational intellect, how could he have been a man?’” The Pope added that as human beings, “we, with our with intellect and reason, have a need to relate, to meet God through Christ. Becoming man, Christ has given us the possibility of becoming like him. Nazianzus exhorts: “We look to be like Christ, since Christ also became like us.’”
The Pope explained how St. Gregory was a moderate man who always sought to work for peace in the Church which, at the time, was being torn apart by discord and heresies. “With the force of a daring evangelical,” the Pope said, “he overcame a very real timidity to proclaim the truth of the faith.”
The Pope also pointed out how St. Gregory defended Mary’s dignity as the Mother of God, her purity and her intercessory power, and how this ancient father of the Church stressed every Christian’s responsibility to “imitate God’s goodness and love through charity and solidarity with others, especially the sick and those in need”. Give God proof of your gratitude, because you belong to those who are blessed, and not to those who are in need of blessings... Be rich not only in material goods, but also in pity; not only in gold, but also in virtue, even better still in this alone.”
St. Gregory, the Pope added, also spoke eloquently on the importance of prayer. “He affirmed that it is ‘necessary to remember God more often than the amount we breath’”, the Pope said, “because prayer is the meeting of God’s thirst with our thirst. God has thirst that we have thirst for Him. In prayer we must direct our hearts to God, to offer ourselves to him as a gift to be purified and converted. In prayer we see everything in the light of Christ, are immersed in God’s truth and inflamed by his love.”
The pope then highlighted how the saint “asks for Christ’s help, to be set straight and put back on the right path again:
‘I have been deluded, oh my Christ,
by my great presumption:
from on high I have fallen low.
But set me on my feet again, so I may see
I was tricked by myself;
if ever I confide too much in myself,
then I shall fall again, and the fall will be fatal’.
St. Gregory’s life was a celebration of God’s love, the Pope concluded, and he called on the faithful to similarly open their hearts to this love, “which overcomes our weakness and gives lasting joy and happiness to our lives”.