Pope Benedict returned to his reflections on St. Augustine today, urging everyone to draw close to Jesus, saying that “those who are far from God are far from themselves.”
In today's general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope again dedicated his catechesis (for the third time) to the figure of St. Augustine.
The Holy Father recalled how in 1986, for the sixteenth centenary of the conversion of this Doctor of the Church, John Paul II wrote the Apostolic Letter "Augustinum Hipponensem" as a form of "thanksgiving to God for the gift that He has made to the Church, and through her to the whole human race, with this wonderful conversion".
After announcing that Augustine's conversion will be the subject of his next and final catechesis on the saint, the Pope indicated that he would dedicate his remarks today to the question of faith and reason, "a vital aspect of St. Augustine's biography".
St. Augustine's "intellectual and spiritual journey still represents a valid model for the relationship between faith and reason today, a theme that concerns not only believers but everyone who seeks the truth, and that is central to the equilibrium and the destiny of all human beings. These two dimensions - faith and reason - must not be separated or brought into conflict with one another, rather they must be harmonized,” the Pope said.
Augustine, the Holy Father reminded, had two maxims "which express this coherent blend of faith and reason: 'crede ut intelligas' (believe in order to understand), believing opens the way to entering the gates of truth" and, "inseparable from this, 'intellige ut credas' (scrutinize truth in order to encounter God and believe)".
"This harmony between faith and reason means, above all, that God is not far away from our reason and our lives. He is close to each human being, close to our heart and close to our reason," the Pontiff encouraged.
The Pope elaborated on God’s closeness to mankind further, "God's presence in man is profound and, at the same time, mysterious, but it can be recognized and discovered in our inmost selves. ... As the saint himself highlights in his famous phrase at the beginning of his 'Confessions', the spiritual autobiography he wrote in praise of God: 'You have formed us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in you'".
"Human beings, the saint writes, are 'a great enigma' and 'a great abyss', an enigma and abyss that only Christ can illuminate and save. This is important. Those who are far from God are far from themselves, they are alienated from themselves and can only encounter themselves if they encounter God and thus ... attain their true identity".
In his "City of God" St. Augustine highlights how "human beings are social by nature and antisocial by corruption, and can only be saved by Christ, the sole mediator between God and humanity, and the universal way to freedom and salvation", said the Holy Father. "As the sole mediator of salvation, Christ is the Head of the Church and mystically united to her".
Turning his attention back to the Apostolic Letter "Augustinum Hipponensem", Benedict XVI indicated that "John Paul II had wished to ask the saint what he had to say to modern man, and he responds with the words Augustine used in a letter written shortly after his conversion: 'It seems to me that men should be brought back to the hope of discovering the truth', the truth that is Christ Himself".
"Augustine", the Pope concluded, "encountered God and throughout his life experienced His presence in such a way that this reality - which is above all an encounter with a Person, Jesus - changed his life, as it changes the lives of those people, men and women, who in all ages have had the grace of meeting Him. Let us pray to the Lord that He may give us this grace and thus bring us to discover His peace".