.- Pope Benedict XVI said at his Oct. 24 general audience that the world’s “spiritual desert” must be transformed into “fertile soil” by Christians who live their faith to its fullest.
“Faith is an agreement by which our minds and our hearts say their ‘yes’ to God, confessing that Jesus is Lord,” he said to a St. Peter’s Square packed with visitors, including large delegations of pilgrims who came to Rome for the canonization of seven new saints on Sunday, Oct. 21.
“And this ‘yes’ transforms life, opens the way towards fullness of meaning, thus making it new, full of joy and of reliable hope,” the Pope added.
The address was the second consecutive installment of the Pope’s series of teachings on faith, marking the Year of Faith he inaugurated on Oct. 11.
He asked a series of “unrelenting” questions about the nature of faith and the meaning of life before exploring them in depth.
“What is faith? Does faith still make sense in a world where science and technology have opened new horizons that were, until recently, unthinkable? What does it mean to believe today?”
The Pope also asked questioned the meaning of life and posited whether “there is a future for man.”
“Where should we direct the choices of our freedom for a successful and happy life? What awaits us beyond the threshold of death?”
He said these questions must be asked more than ever in a world in which “a sort of spiritual desert” is encroaching—a world where many people “believe only what we can see and touch” with their hands.
On the other hand, he observed, the number of people who feel disoriented is growing and, “in seeking to go beyond a purely horizontal reality, they are willing to believe anything and its direct opposite.”
Pope Benedict proclaimed that for these times, Christians need “a renewed faith education, which includes a certain awareness of its truth and the events of salvation, but that mainly arises from a real encounter with God in Jesus Christ, from loving Him, trusting him, so that our entire life is involved.”
Contrary to the tendency of science to create a non-spiritual outlook on life, he stressed that man does not live on actual bread alone: “We need not only material bread, we need love, meaning and hope, a sure foundation, a solid ground to help us live with an authentic sense even in moments of crisis, darkness, difficulties and daily problems.
“Faith gives us just that. It is a confident trust in a ‘you,’ that is God, who gives me a different but no less solid certainty, than that which comes from exact calculation or science,” Benedict XVI stated.
That spiritual bread is provided by Christ, the sure source of faith, hope and love.
The Pope also emphasized that faith is rooted in something concrete and historical – the example of Jesus, who “revealed His love without measure for man, for each one of us: on the Cross, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God made man, shows us in the most luminous way how far this love can go, even to the point of giving himself up in total sacrifice.”
Another aspect of faith that he reflected on was the child-like trust that it requires.
“Having faith, then, is encountering this ‘you,’ God, who sustains me and grants me the promise of an indestructible love that not only aspires to eternity, but gifts it; it is entrusting myself to God with the attitude of a child, who knows that all his difficulties, all his troubles are safe in the ‘you’ of the mother.”
John Evans of Melbourne, Australia, was impressed by the prayerful atmosphere in St. Peter’s Square, despite the large crowd of pilgrims waving banners and the noise of the loud speaker system.
“Despite all of the noise going on outside, the Church remained really focused,” said Evans, visiting Rome for the first time with his wife Annie. “I was sitting there listening to the Gospel of Mark, and for all this going on, the majority of people seemed to be listening to the word of God.”
In his address, the Pope commented on “the harsh words of the Risen Jesus who says: ‘Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.’”
“I invite you to reflect on this,” he encouraged the crowd. With “confidence in the action of the Holy Spirit, we must always … preach the Gospel” and give “a courageous witness of faith.”
Pope Benedict suggested Catholics recommit themselves to their baptismal promises as a way of preparing to share the faith.
“The basis of our journey of faith is baptism, the sacrament which gifts us the Holy Spirit, making us children of God in Christ, and marks our entry into the community of faith, the Church,” he said toward the end of his address.