Being Christian Is No Easy Task, Admits Pope

Says Christ’s Teachings Still Cause Scandal

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 23, 2009 ( It’s not easy being a Christian today, just as it wasn’t in Christ’s time, since the Lord asks believers to swim against the current in following his teachings, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope affirmed this today in an address to crowds gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo for the praying of the midday Angelus.

The Holy Father was reflecting on the Gospel reading from St. John for today’s Mass, which describes how many of Christ’s followers abandoned him because of his affirmation, “If you do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man or drink of his blood, you shall not have life within you.”

“Jesus, however, does not soften his statements,” the Pontiff noted. “[I]ndeed, he turns to the Twelve directly and asks: ‘Do you also wish to leave?'”

Benedict XVI contended that this “provocative question” is not just for the Apostles, but also for the believers “of every age.”

“Today too,” he said, “not a few are scandalized by the paradox of the Christian faith. Jesus’ teaching seems ‘hard,’ too difficult to put into practice. There are thus those who reject it and abandon Christ; there are those who try to ‘adapt’ the word to the fashions of the times, distorting its meaning and value.

“‘Do you also wish to leave?’ This disturbing provocation resounds in our hearts and awaits a personal response from each person.”

Following Peter

The Holy Father went on to say that Jesus is “not satisfied with a superficial and formal following,” but rather calls believers to participate “‘in his thinking and in his willing’ all of our lives.”

This following “fills the heart with joy and gives complete meaning to our existence,” the Pope added. But, he also said, “it brings difficulties and renunciations because very often we must go against the current.”

Pointing to Peter, who as the first Pope, reiterated his adhesion to Christ in the name of the Apostles, Benedict XVI said that “we too can repeat Peter’s answer, aware of course of our human fragility, but confident in the power of the Holy Spirit, who expresses himself and manifests himself in communion with Jesus.”

“Faith is a gift of God to man and it is, at the same time, man’s free and total entrusting of himself to God,” he added. “Faith is the docile listening to the word of the Lord, that is the ‘lamp’ for our steps and the ‘light’ on our way.

“If we open our hearts to Christ with confidence, if we let ourselves be conquered by him, we too can experience, together with the Curé d’Ars, ‘that our only happiness on this earth is to love God and to know that he loves us.'”

“Let us ask the Virgin Mary,” the Pope concluded, “always to keep alive in us this faith impregnated by love, which made her, the humble girl of Nazareth, Mother of God and model for all believers.”

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