When Christians say “amen,” they are expressing their trust in the loving promise of God manifested in Jesus Christ, Pope Benedict said during his General Audience on Wednesday.
“The Spirit, poured forth into our hearts, leads us to the Father, constantly making present God’s 'Yes' to us in Christ and in turn enabling us to say our 'Yes' – Amen! – to God,” the Pope told tens of thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on May 30.
“Our use of the word 'Amen,' rooted in the ancient liturgical prayer of Israel and then taken up by the early Church, expresses our firm faith in God’s word and our hope in his promises.”
Pope Benedict's remarks continued his catechesis on Christian prayer with a particular focus in recent weeks upon the interior life of St. Paul. This week the Pope explored the Apostle’s Second Letter to the Corinthians where he writes;
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
This promise of comfort is not an exemption from suffering, said the Pope, but a plea not to let ourselves “be overcome by tribulations and difficulties.”
“We are invited to experience every situation in unity with Christ, who takes all the suffering and sin of the world upon himself in order to bring light, hope and redemption.”
Either by providence or planning, Pope Benedict seemed to touch upon with his own present suffering following the recent prosecution of his personal butler for stealing confidential documents.
“Our life and our Christian journey are often marked by difficulty, misunderstandings and pain,” he said, adding that “in a faithful relationship with the Lord, in constant daily prayer, we are able to feel the consolation that comes from God.”
The source of this strength, he explained, is a relationship of mutual love between God and man. This is the thrust of St. Paul's proposition to the Christians in Corinth – that the incarnation of Jesus Christ “is God’s 'Yes' to mankind and the fulfillment of all his promises” and that “through Jesus we say our 'Amen,' to the glory of God.”
“For Paul, prayer is above all God’s gift, grounded in his faithful love which was fully revealed in the sending of his Son and the gift of the Holy Spirit,” observed the Pope.
Sadly, however, this faithful love of God is not always returned by man. Despite this, said the Pope, the “entire history of salvation is a progressive revelation of this fidelity of God’s, despite our own infidelity and our constant denials.”
The difference between human and divine love, he explained, is that when we are “faced with conflict in human relationships, often even within the family, we tend not to persevere in gratuitous love, which requires commitment and sacrifice.”
God on the other hand “never loses patience with us and, in his immense mercy, precedes us always and comes out to meet us.”
It is important, therefore, for humans to “enter into Christ’s 'yes' by following God’s will.” In this way we will be like St. Paul in being able to affirm that “it is not we who live, but Christ himself who lives in us,” Pope Benedict said.
The “amen” of our personal and community prayer “will embrace and transform all of our lives.”