Audiences 2005-2013 14112

Wednesday, 14 November 2012: Year of Faith. The ways that lead to knowledge of God


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Last Wednesday we reflected on the desire for God that human beings carry deep within them. Today I would like to continue to examine this aspect, meditating briefly with you on some of the ways to attain knowledge of God. I wish to recall, however, that God’s initiative always precedes every human initiative and on our journey towards him too it is he who first illuminates us, who directs and guides us, ever respecting our inner freedom. It is always he who admits us to intimacy with him, revealing himself and giving us the grace to be able to accept this revelation in faith. Let us never forget St Augustine’s experience: it is not we who possess the Truth after having sought it, but the Truth that seeks us out and possesses us.

Nonetheless there are ways that can open the human heart to knowledge of God, there are signs that lead to God. Of course, we often risk being dazzled by the glare of worldliness that makes us less able to follow these paths and to read these signs. Yet God never tires of seeking us, he is faithful to the human being whom he created and redeemed, he stays close to us in our life because he loves us. This is a certainty that must accompany us every day, even if a certain widespread mentality makes it harder for the Church and for Christians to communicate to every creature the joy of the Gospel and to lead everyone to the encounter with Jesus, the one Saviour of the world.

However, this is our mission. It is the mission of the Church and every believer must carry it out joyously, feeling it his own, through an existence truly enlivened by faith, marked by charity, by service to God and to others, and that can radiate hope. This mission shines out above all in the holiness to which we are all called.

Today — as we know — faith, which is all too often not properly understood and contested or rejected, encounters no lack of difficulties and trials. St Peter said to his Christians: “Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (
1P 3,15). In the past, in the West, in a society deemed Christian, faith was the context in which people acted; the reference and adherence to God were part of daily life for the majority. Rather, it was the person who did not believe who had to justify his or her own incredulity. In our world the situation has changed and, increasingly, it is believers who must be able to account for their faith. In his Encyclical Fides et Ratio Blessed John Paul II stressed that faith is also put to the test in our day, riddled with subtle and captious forms of atheism, both theoretical and practical (cf. nn. 46-47). Ever since the Enlightenment the criticism of religion has been gathering momentum; history has also come to be marked by the presence of atheistic systems in which God was seen as a mere projection of the human mind, an illusion and the product of a society already misled by so many alienating factors. Moreover the past century experienced a strong process of secularization under the banner of the absolute autonomy of the human being, considered as the measure and architect of reality, but impoverished by being created “in the image and likeness of God”. A particularly dangerous phenomenon for faith has arisen in our times: indeed a form of atheism exists which we define, precisely, as “practical”, in which the truths of faith or religious rites are not denied but are merely deemed irrelevant to daily life, detached from life, pointless. So it is that people often believe in God in a superficial manner, and live “as though God did not exist” (etsi Deus non daretur). In the end, however, this way of life proves even more destructive because it leads to indifference to faith and to the question of God.

In fact human beings, separated from God, are reduced to a single dimension — the horizontal — and this reductionism itself is one of the fundamental causes of the various forms of totalitarianism that have had tragic consequences in the past century, as well as of the crisis of values that we see in the current situation. By obscuring the reference to God the ethical horizon has also been obscured, to leave room for relativism and for an ambiguous conception of freedom which, instead of being liberating, ends by binding human beings to idols. The temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness before his public ministry vividly symbolize which “idols” entice human beings when they do not go beyond themselves. Were God to lose his centrality man would lose his rightful place, he would no longer fit into creation, into relations with others. What ancient wisdom evokes with the myth of Prometheus has not faded: man thinks he himself can become a “god”, master of life and death.

With this picture before her, the Church, faithful to Christ’s mandate, never ceases to affirm the truth about man and about his destiny. The Second Vatican Council affirms it concisely: “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and unless he entrusts himself to his Creator” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes GS 19).

What answers, therefore, is faith required to give, “with gentleness and reverence” to atheism, to scepticism, to indifference to the vertical dimension, in order that the people of our time may continue to ponder on the existence of God and take paths that lead to him? I want to point out several paths that derive both from natural reflection and from the power of faith itself. I would like to sum them up very briefly in three words: the world, man, faith.

The first word: the world. St Augustine, who spent much of his life seeking the Truth and was grasped by the Truth, wrote a very beautiful and famous passage in which he said: “Question the beauty of the earth, question the beauty of the sea, question the beauty of the air distending and diffusing itself, question the beauty of the sky... question all these realities. All respond: ‘See, we are beautiful’. Their beauty is a profession [confessio]. These beauties are subject to change. Who made them if not the Beautiful One [Pulcher] who is not subject to change?” (Sermo 241, 2: pl 38, 1134).

I think we should recover — and enable people today to recover — our capacity for contemplating creation, its beauty and its structure. The world is not a shapeless mass of magma, but the better we know it and the better we discover its marvellous mechanisms the more clearly we can see a plan, we see that there is a creative intelligence. Albert Einstein said that in natural law is revealed “an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection” (The World As I See It, 1949). Consequently a first path that leads to the discovery of God is an attentive contemplation of creation.

The second word: man. Again, St Augustine was to write a famous sentence in which he says that God is more intimate to me than I am to myself (cf. Confessions III, 6, 11).

Hence he formulates the invitation, “do not go outside yourself, return to yourself: the truth is higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self” (De Vera Religione, 39, 72). This is another aspect that we risk losing in the noisy and dispersive world in which we live: the ability to pause and look deeply into ourselves and to reinterpret the thirst for the infinite that we bear within us, that impels us to go further and to refer to the One who can quench it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “with his openness to truth and beauty, his sense of moral goodness, his freedom and the voice of his conscience, with his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God's existence” (n. 33).

The third word: faith. We must not forget, especially in the situation of our time, that the life of faith is a path which leads to the knowledge of and encounter with God. Those who believe are united to God and open to his grace, to the power of his love. Thus their existence becomes a witness, not of themselves but of the Risen One, and their faith does not hesitate to shine out in daily life, open to dialogue that expresses deep friendship for the journey of every human being and can bring hope to people in need of redemption, happiness, a future. Faith, in fact, is an encounter with God who speaks and works in history and converts our daily life, transforming within us mentalities, value judgements, decisions and practical actions. Faith is not an illusion, a flight of fancy, a refuge or sentimentalism; rather it is total involvement in the whole of life and is the proclamation of the Gospel, the Good News that can set the whole of the person free. A Christian and a community that are active and faithful to the plan of God who loved us first, are privileged paths for those immersed in indifference or in doubt about their life and action. However, this asks each and every one to make their testimony of faith ever more transparent, purifying their life so that it may be in conformity with Christ. Many people today have a limited idea of the Christian faith, because they identify it with a mere system of beliefs and values rather than with the truth of a God who revealed himself in history, anxious to communicate with human beings in a tête-à-tête, in a relationship of love with them. In fact, at the root of every doctrine or value is the event of the encounter between man and God in Jesus Christ. Christianity, before being a moral or an ethic, is the event of love, it is the acceptance of the Person of Jesus. For this reason the Christian and Christian communities must first look and make others look to Christ, the true Way that leads to God.

To special groups:

I greet the participants in the Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. I also greet the El Shaddai European Convention. I welcome the Westminster Cathedral Choir and I thank them, and the other choirs present, for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Denmark, Gibraltar, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan and the United States, I cordially invoke God’s abundant blessings.

I address an affectionate welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims, especially the parish groups, associations and students. I greet the participants of the Forum organized by Caritas Internationalis and the missionaries, priests and lay people who are taking part in the course organized by the Pontifical Salesian University: may your visit to the See of Peter encourage spiritual renewal and the commitment to evangelization in everyone.

Lastly, a thought for the young people, the sick and the newlyweds.Tomorrow we shall be celebrating the Memorial of St Albert the Great, Patron of all who cultivate the natural sciences. Dear young people, may you know how to reconcile strict study with the demands of faith; dear sick people, trust in the help of medicine, but to an even greater extent in God’s mercy; and you, dear newlyweds, with love and reciprocal esteem, witness to the beauty of the sacrament you have received.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 21 November 2012: Year of Faith. The reasonableness of faith in God

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Let us proceed in this Year of Faith bearing in our hearts the hope of finding all the joy there is in believing and of rediscovering the enthusiasm of communicating the truths of the faith to all. These truths are not a simple message about God, a particular piece of information on him. On the contrary they express the event of God’s encounter with human beings, a salvific and liberating encounter which fulfils the deepest aspirations of the human heart, the yearning for peace, brotherhood and love. Faith leads to the discovery that the meeting with God enhances, perfects and exalts all that is true, good and beautiful that exists in man. So it happens that while God reveals himself and lets himself be known, man comes to realize who God is and in knowing him, discovers himself, his true origin, his destiny, the greatness and dignity of human life.

Faith makes possible authentic knowledge about God which involves the whole human person: it is a “sapere”, that is, a knowledge which gives life a savour, a new taste, a joyful way of being in the world. Faith is expressed in the gift of self for others, in brotherhood which creates solidarity, the ability to love, overcoming the loneliness that brings sadness. Thus this knowledge of God through faith is not only intellectual but also vital. It is the knowledge of God-Love, thanks to his own love. The love of God, moreover, makes us see, opens our eyes, enables us to know the whole of reality, in addition to the narrow views of individualism and subjectivism that confuse consciences. Knowledge of God is therefore an experience of faith and at the same time entails an intellectual and moral development; moved in our depths by the Spirit of Jesus within us, we go beyond the horizons of our own selfishness and open ourselves to the true values of existence.

Today, in this catechesis, I would like to reflect on the reasonableness of faith in God. The Catholic Tradition, from the outset, rejected the so-called “fideism”, which is the desire to believe against reason. Credo quia absurdum (I believe because it is absurd) is not a formula that interprets the Catholic faith. Indeed God is not absurd, if anything he is a mystery. The mystery, in its turn, is not irrational but is a superabundance of sense, of meaning, of truth. If, looking at the mystery, reason sees darkness, it is not because there is no light in the mystery, but rather because there is too much of it. Just as when humans raise their eyes to look at the sun, they are blinded; but who would say that the sun is not bright or, indeed, the fount of light? Faith permits us to look at the “sun”, God, because it is the acceptance of his revelation in history and, so to speak, the true reception of God’s mystery, recognizing the great miracle. God came close to man, he offered himself so that man might know him, stooping to the creatural limitations of human reason (cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Dei Verbum
DV 13). At the same time, God, with his grace, illuminates reason, unfolds new horizons before it, boundless and infinite. For this reason faith is an incentive to seek always, never to stop and never to be content in the inexhaustible search for truth and reality. The prejudice of certain modern thinkers, who hold that human reason would be as it were blocked by the dogmas of faith, is false.

Exactly the opposite is true, as the great teachers of the Catholic Tradition have shown. St Augustine, before his conversion sought the Truth with great restlessness through all the philosophies he had at his disposal, finding them all unsatisfactory. His demanding, rational search, was a meaningful pedagogy for him for the encounter with the Truth of Christ. When he says: “I believe, in order to understand, and I understand the better to believe” (Discourse 43, 9: PL 38, 258), it is as if he were recounting his own life experience. Intellect and faith are not foreign or antagonistic to the divine Revelation but are both conditions for understanding its meaning, for receiving its authentic message, for approaching the threshold of the mystery. St Augustine, together with so many other Christian authors, is a witness of a faith that is practised with reason, that thinks and invites thought. On this same track St Anselm was to say in his Proslogion that the Catholic faith is a fides quaerens intellectum, where the quest for understanding is an act inherent to believing. It was to be St Thomas Aquinas in particular — strong in this tradition — who challenged the reason of the philosophers, showing how much new and fertile rational vitality comes from human thought grafted on to the principles and truths of the Christian faith.

The Catholic faith is therefore reasonable and fosters trust in human reason as well. The First Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, said that reason is able to know with certainty that God exists through the Creation, whereas the possibility of knowing “easily, with complete certainty and without error” (DS 3005) the truths that concern God in the light of grace, belongs to faith alone. The knowledge of faith, moreover, is not in opposition to right reason. Blessed Pope John Paul II, in fact, in his Encyclical Fides et Ratio, sums it up in these words: “human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice” (n. 43).

In the irresistible desire for truth, only a harmonious relationship between faith and reason is the right road that leads to God and to the person’s complete fulfilment. This doctrine is easily recognizable throughout the New Testament. St Paul, in writing to the Christians of Corinth, maintains, as we have heard: “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1Co 1,22-23). God in fact did not save the world with an act of power, but through the humiliation of his Only-Begotten Son. Measured in human parameters, the unusual ways of God clash with the demands of Greek wisdom. And yet, the Cross of Christ has a reason of its own which St Paul calls: ho logos tou staurou “the word of the cross” (1Co 1,18). Here the term logos means both the word and reason and, if it alludes to the word, it is because it expresses verbally what reason works out.

Hence Paul does not see the Cross as an irrational event, but as a saving factor that possesses its own reasonableness, recognizable in the light of faith. At the same time he has such trust in human reason, that he is surprised that many people, in spite of seeing the works brought about by God, persist in refusing to believe in him. In his Letter to the Romans St Paul says: “ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rm 1,20).

St Peter likewise also urges the Christians of the diaspora to worship: “in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” (1P 3,15). In an atmosphere of persecution and with a pressing need to bear witness to faith, we believers are asked to justify with well-grounded reasons their adherence to the word of the Gospel, to account for the reason for our hope.

The virtual relationship between science and faith is also founded on these premises concerning the fertile connection between understanding and believing. Scientific research leads to the knowledge of ever new truths about man and about the cosmos, as we see it. The true good of humanity, accessible in faith, unfolds the horizons within which the process of its discovery must move. Consequently research, for example, at the service of life and which aims to eliminate disease, should be encouraged. Also important are investigations that aim to discover the secrets of our planet and of the universe, in the awareness that the human being is not in charge of creation to exploit it foolishly but to preserve it and make it inhabitable. Thus faith, lived truly, does not come into conflict with science but, rather, cooperates with it, offering the basic criteria to promote the good of all and asking it to give up only those endeavours which — in opposition to God’s original plan — produce effects that are detrimental to the human being. For this reason too it is reasonable to believe: if science is a precious ally of faith for understanding God’s plan for the universe, faith, remaining faithful to this very plan, permits scientific progress always to be achieved for the good and truth of man.

This is why it is crucial for human beings to be open to faith and to know God and his plan of salvation in Jesus Christ. In the Gospel a new humanism is inaugurated, an authentic “grammar” of the human being and of the whole of reality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “God's truth is his wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the world. God, who alone ‘made heaven and earth’ (Ps 115,15), can alone impart true knowledge of every created thing in relation to himself” (n. 216).

Let us trust, therefore, that our commitment to evangelization may help to restore a new centrality to the Gospel in the life of untold men and women of our time. And let us pray that all may rediscover in Christ the meaning of existence and the foundation of true freedom: without God, in fact, men and women lose themselves. The testimonies of those who have preceded us and dedicated their lives to the Gospel confirm this for ever. It is reasonable to believe, and the whole of our existence is at stake. It is worth expending oneself for Christ, he alone satisfies the desires for truth and goodness that are rooted in every human being’s soul: now, in time that passes, and in the never ending day of blessed Eternity.

To special groups:

I offer a cordial greeting to the participants in the conference on Catholic and Muslim cooperation in promoting justice in the contemporary world. I also greet the group from CAFOD, with gratitude for the Agency’s 50 years of charitable activity on behalf of the Church in England and Wales. Upon all present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Sri Lanka and the United States, I invoke God’s blessings! Thank you.

I now greet with affection the sick, the newlyweds and the young people, especially the students of Beata Maria Cristina Brando School in Casoria. Next Sunday, the last in Ordinary Time, we shall celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Dear young people, put Jesus at the centre of your life, and you will receive light and courage from him in every daily decision. May Christ, who made the Cross a royal throne, teach you, dear sick people, to understand the redemptive value of suffering lived in union with him. I hope that you, dear newlyweds, may recognize the Lord’s presence on your journey as a married couple, so as to share in building his Kingdom of love and peace.

Today, the liturgical Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Temple, we are celebrating the Day of Cloistered Religious Life. I would like to assure the Sisters called by the Lord to contemplative life of my own special closeness and that of the entire ecclesial community. At the same time, I renew my invitation to all Christians not to let cloistered monasteries lack spiritual and material support. We are so indebted, in fact, to these people who have consecrated themselves without reserve to prayer for the Church and for the world! Many thanks.


I am following with serious concern the escalating violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Bearing both the victims and those who are suffering in prayerful remembrance, I feel it is my duty to state once again that hatred and violence are never a solution to problems. Moreover, I encourage the initiatives and efforts of all those who are seeking to obtain a truce and to further negotiations. I also urge all the Authorities of both Parties to make courageous decisions for peace and to put an end to this conflict that is causing such negative repercussions throughout the Middle East, persecuted by so many clashes and in need of peace and reconciliation.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 28 November 2012: Year of Faith. How to speak about God?

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The important question we ask ourselves today is: how can we talk about God in our time? How can we communicate the Gospel so as to open roads to his saving truth in our contemporaries’ hearts — that are all too often closed — and minds — that are at times distracted by the many dazzling lights of society? Jesus, the Evangelists tell us, asked himself about this as he proclaimed the kingdom of God: “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?” (
Mc 4,30).

How can we talk about God today? The first answer is that we can talk about God because he has talked to us; so the first condition for speaking of God is listening to all that God himself has said. God has spoken to us! God is therefore not a distant hypothesis concerning the world’s origin; he is not a mathematical intelligence far from us. God takes an interest in us, he loves us, he has entered personally into the reality of our history, he has communicated himself, even to the point of taking flesh. Thus God is a reality of our life, he is so great that he has time for us too, he takes an interest in us. In Jesus of Nazareth we encounter the face of God, who came down from his heaven to immerse himself in the human world, in our world, and to teach “the art of living”, the road to happiness; to set us free from sin and make us children of God (cf. Ep 1,5 Rm 8,14). Jesus came to save us and to show us the good life of the Gospel.

Talking about God means first of all expressing clearly what God we must bring to the men and women of our time: not an abstract God, a hypothesis, but a real God, a God who exists, who has entered history and is present in history; the God of Jesus Christ as an answer to the fundamental question of the meaning of life and of how we should live. Consequently speaking of God demands familiarity with Jesus and his Gospel, it implies that we have a real, personal knowledge of God and a strong passion for his plan of salvation without succumbing to the temptation of success, but following God’s own method. God’s method is that of humility — God makes himself one of us — his method is brought about through the Incarnation in the simple house of Nazareth; through the Grotto of Bethlehem; through the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

We must not fear the humility of taking little steps, but trust in the leaven that penetrates the dough and slowly causes it to rise (cf. Mt 13,33). In talking about God, in the work of evangelization, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must recover simplicity, we must return to the essence of the proclamation: the Good News of a God who is real and effective, a God who is concerned about us, a God-Love who makes himself close to us in Jesus Christ, until the Cross, and who in the Resurrection gives us hope and opens us to a life that has no end, eternal life, true life. St Paul, that exceptional communicator, gives us a lesson that goes straight to the heart of the problem of faith: “how to speak of God” with great simplicity.

In his First Letter to the Corinthians he writes: “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1Co 2,1-2).

The first real fact, therefore, is that Paul does not speak of a philosophy that he developed, he does not speak of ideas that he found elsewhere or invented, but of a reality of his life, he speaks of the God who entered his life, he speaks of a real God who is alive, who spoke with him and will speak with us, he speaks of the Crucified and Risen Christ.

The second real fact is that Paul does not seek himself, he does not want to make a fan club for himself, he does not wish to go down in history as the head of a school of great knowledge, he is not self-seeking; rather, St Paul proclaims Christ and wants to gain people for the true and real God. Paul’s wish is to speak of and preach the One who entered his life and who is true life, who won him over on the road to Damascus. Therefore, talking about God means making room for the One who enables us to know him, who reveals his face of love to us; it means emptying ourselves of our own ego, offering it to Christ, in the awareness that it is not we who can win over others for God, but that we must expect God to send them, we must entreat God for them. Talking about God therefore stems from listening, from our knowledge of God which is brought about through familiarity with him, through the life of prayer and in accordance with the Commandments.

Communicating faith, for St Paul, did not mean putting himself forward, but rather saying openly and publicly what he had seen and heard in his encounter with Christ, what he had experienced in his life that was transformed by that encounter: it meant putting forward Jesus whom he felt present within him and who became the true orientation of his existence, to make it clear to all that Jesus is necessary to the world and crucial to every person’s freedom. The Apostle is not satisfied with proclaiming words but expends his whole life in the great work of faith. To speak of God, we must leave him room, trusting that he will act in our weakness: we must make room for him without fear but with simplicity and joy, in the deep conviction that the more we put him at the centre rather than ourselves, the more fruitful our communication will be. And this is also true for Christian communities: they are called to show the transforming action of God’s grace, by overcoming individualism, closure, selfishness, indifference, by living out God’s love in their daily relations. Let us ask ourselves whether our communities really are like this. To be so, we must, always and truly proclaim Christ and not ourselves.

At this point we should ask ourselves: how did Jesus communicate? Jesus, in his oneness, speaks of his Father — Abba — and of the Kingdom of God, his gaze full of compassion for the hardships and difficulties of human life. He speaks with great realism and, I would say, that the essential feature of Jesus’ proclamation is that it makes clear that our life and the world are worthy of God. Jesus shows that in the world and in Creation God’s face shines out and he shows us that God is present in the daily events of our life. Both in the parables on nature, the mustard seed and the field with various seeds, and in our own life — let us think of the parable of the Prodigal Son, of Lazarus and of other parables of Jesus. From the Gospels we see that Jesus takes an interest in every human situation that he encounters, he immerses himself in the reality of the men and women of his time, with complete trust in the Father’s help. And that in this history, although hidden, God is really present and if we are attentive we can encounter him. And the disciples, who live with Jesus, the crowds who meet him, see his reaction to the most disparate problems, they see how he speaks, how he behaves; in him they see the action of the Holy Spirit, the action of God. In him proclamation and life are interwoven: Jesus acts and teaches, always starting from a close relationship with God the Father. This style becomes an essential indication for us as Christians: our way of living in faith and charity becomes a way of speaking of God today, because it shows, through a life lived in Christ, the credibility and realism of what we say with words, which are not solely words but reveal the reality, the true reality. And in this we must take care to perceive the signs of the times in our epoch, namely, to identify the potentials, aspirations and obstacles we encounter in today’s culture and in particular the wish for authenticity, the yearning for transcendence, and concern to safeguard Creation and to communicate fearlessly the response that faith in God offers.

The Year of Faith is an opportunity for us to discover, our imaginations fired by the Holy Spirit, new paths to take on a personal and community level so that the power of the Gospel may become wisdom of life and an orientation for existence everywhere.

In our time too, the family, the first school for communicating the faith to the new generations, is a privileged place in which to talk about God. The Second Vatican Council speaks of parents as the first messengers of God (cf. Dogmatic Constitution, Decree Lumen Gentium LG 11 Apostolicam Actuositatem AA 11). Parents are called to rediscover their mission, assuming responsibility in educating, in opening the consciences of their little ones to love of God as a fundamental service to their life and in being the first catechists and teachers of the faith for their children. And in this task watchfulness is of the utmost importance. It means being able to take favourable opportunities to introduce the topic of faith in the family and to develop a critical reflection with regard to the many forms of conditioning to which children are subjected.

The parents’ attention includes their sensitivity in perceiving the possible religious questions latent in their children’s minds, at times obvious but at other times hidden. Then, joy: the communication of faith must always have joyful tones. It is the Easter joy that does not stay silent or conceal the realities of pain, of suffering, of effort, of difficulty, of incomprehension and of death itself, but that can offer criteria for interpreting all things in the perspective of Christian hope. The good life of the Gospel is precisely this new perception, this capacity to see God with one’s own eyes in every situation. It is important to help all the members of the family understand that faith is not a burden but a source of profound joy, that it is perceiving God’s action, recognizing the presence of goodness that does not make a sound; and it offers precious guidance for living life well. Lastly, the capacity for listening and for dialogue: the family must be a milieu in which we learn to be together, to settle disagreements in conversation with each other, which consists in listening and speaking, in mutual understanding and love, so as to be a sign for each other of God’s merciful love.

So it is that talking about God means making people realize through our speech and example, that God is no rival in our existence but rather is its true guarantor, who guarantees the greatness of the human person. Thus we return to the beginning: speaking of God is communicating what is essential, forcefully and simply, through our words and through our life: the God of Jesus Christ, that God who showed us a love so great that he took flesh, died and rose again for us: that God who asks us to follow him and to let ourselves be transformed by his immense love in order to renew our life and our relationships; that God who has given us the Church, so that we may walk together and, through the word and the sacraments, renew the entire city of men and women, so that it may become a City of God.

To special groups:

I offer a cordial welcome to the members and associates of the Catholic Medical Missionary Board, with gratitude for their charitable concern for the health care needs of our brothers and sisters in developing countries. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience, including the groups from Nigeria, Korea and the United States of America, I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.


World AIDS Day will be celebrated on 1 December to draw attention to a disease that has taken a toll of millions of lives and caused tragic human suffering, particularly acute in the world’s poorest regions that only with great difficulty have access to effective medicines. My thoughts turn in particular to the large number of children who contract the virus from their mothers every year, despite the preventive treatment that exists. I encourage the many projects in the context of the ecclesial mission that are being promoted to eliminate this scourge.
* * *

Lastly, I address an affectionate thought to the young people, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Season of Advent that is about to begin be an incentive to you, dear young people, to rediscover the importance of faith in Christ; may it help you, dear sick people, to face your suffering with you gaze turned to the Infant Jesus; may it increase in you, dear newlyweds, the meaning of God’s presence in your new family.

Paul VI Audience Hall

Wednesday, 5 December 2012: Year of Faith. God reveals his "benevolent purpose"

Audiences 2005-2013 14112