On Nourishing Faith

«Our Heart Must Live the Experience of Conversion Every Day»

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 16, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Sunday before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered at the pontifical summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The passage of this Sunday’s Gospel begins with the indication of where Jesus was going: Tyre and Sidon, in the northwest of Galilee, pagan land. And it is here that he meets a Canaanite woman, who turns to him and asks him to heal her daughter, tormented by a demon (cf. Matthew 15:22).

Now in this request we can perceive the beginning of the journey of faith that grows and is reinforced in the dialogue with the divine Teacher. The woman is not afraid to cry out to Jesus «Have mercy on me,» an expression the recurs in the Psalms (cf. 50:1). She calls him «Lord» and «Son of David» (cf. Matthew 15:22), thus manifesting firm hope of being heard. What is the Lord’s attitude in response to the pain of a pagan woman?

Jesus’ silence might seem disconcerting, so much so that it arouses the intervention of the disciples, but it is not a question of insensitivity to that woman’s pain. St. Augustine rightly comments: «Christ showed himself indifferent to her, not to refuse mercy to her, but to inflame her desire» (Sermon 77, 1: P: 38, 483).

Jesus’ seeming detachment, who says «I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel» (24), does not discourage the Canaanite woman, who insists: «Lord, help me!» (25). And even when she receives an answer that seems to close all hope — «It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs» (26) — she does not desist. She does not want to take anything from anyone: in her simplicity and humility she is content with little, she is satisfied with crumbs, she is content with just a look, a good word from the Son of God. And Jesus is in admiration of such a great response of faith and says to her: «Be it done for you as you desire» (28).

Dear friends, we are also called to grow in faith, to open ourselves and to receive freely the gift of God, and to trust and to also cry out to Jesus: give us faith, help us to find the way!» It is the way that Jesus made his disciples, the Canaanite woman and men of all times and nations follow, and each one of us. Faith opens us to know and to accept Jesus’ real identity, his novelty and uniqueness, his Word, as source of life, to live a personal relationship with him.

Knowledge of the faith grows, it grows with the desire to find the way, and it is finally a gift of God, which is revealed to us not as something abstract without a face and without a name, but faith responds to a Person, who wishes to enter into a relationship of profound love with us and to involve our whole life. That is why our heart must live the experience of conversion every day; every day must see our passing from a man withdrawn into himself to a man open to God’s action, to a spiritual man (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:13-14), who allows himself to be challenged by the Word of the Lord and opens his life to his Love.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us therefore nourish our faith every day, with profound listening to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer as «cry» to Him and with charity for our neighbor. We invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom tomorrow we will contemplate in her glorious Assumption to heaven in soul and body, so that she will help us to proclaim and to witness with our life the joy of having found the Lord.

[After the Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the crowd in several languages. In English, he said:]

I greet the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Angelus prayer. Today our thoughts turn to the young people now gathering in Madrid for World Youth Day. As I prepare to join them, I ask you to accompany us with your prayers for the spiritual fruitfulness of this important event. May God bless all of you abundantly!

[In Italian, he said:]

I greet affectionately the Italian pilgrims, in particular the faithful of Latina, gathered here with the pro «Stella Maris» torch. I ask all to accompany me spiritually with prayer on my trip to Madrid, which I will undertake in a few days on the occasion of Word Youth Day. I wish each one a good Sunday, a good week and a good Feast tomorrow.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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