Pope: "We are Pilgrims Towards the Heavenly Homeland"

General Audience Focuses on Man’s Desire for God

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By Ann Schneible

ROME, Nov. 7, 2012 (Zenit.org).- «Man bears within him a mysterious desire for God.»

Pope Benedict XVI reflected on the opening words of the Catechism during this week’s Wednesday audience, speaking of the desire for God which, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church writes, is «written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God… Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for» (no. 27).

Although these words from the Catechism may be accepted and self-evident in some cultures, the Holy Father said, they may «seem a provocation in secularized Western culture. Many of our contemporaries could in fact argue that in no way do they feel such a desire for God. For large sections of society, He is no longer the awaited one, the desired one, but rather a reality that leaves people indifferent, in front of which one should not even make the effort to comment. In reality, what we have defined as «the desire of God» has not disappeared completely, and presents itself even today, in many ways, in the heart of man.

«The answer to the question about the meaning of the experience of love thus passes through the purification and healing of the will, required by the very love which I have for the other. We must practice this, we must train, and even correct ourselves, so that we may truly desire that good.»

«The initial ecstasy,» the Pope continued, «thus becomes a pilgrimage, ‘an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God’ (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, 6). Through this journey, man will gradually deepen in the knowledge of that love which he had initially experienced. And the mystery which it represents will increasingly stand out: not even the person loved, in fact, can satisfy the desire that dwells in the human heart; on the contrary, the more authentic the love for the other is, the more it allows the question to arise concerning its origin and its destiny, concerning the chance it has of lasting forever. Thus, the human experience of love has within it a dynamism that leads beyond oneself, it is an experience of a good that leads one to go out of oneself and to find oneself before the mystery surrounding the whole of existence.»

Pope Benedict calls for the promotion of a «pedagogy of desire, both for the path of those who do not yet believe, and for those who have already received the gift of faith. A pedagogy that includes at least two aspects. First, learning or re-learning the taste for the authentic joys of life,» he went on: «Educating individuals from an early age to savor the true joys, in all areas of life – family, friendship, solidarity with those who suffer, self-denial to serve others, love for knowledge, for art, for the beauties of nature – all this means exercising that inner taste and producing effective antibodies against the trivialization and flattening prevailing today.»

Another aspect of this pedagogy «which goes hand in hand with the previous one, is to never to be satisfied with what has been achieved. It is precisely the truest joys that are capable of freeing in us that healthy unrest that leads us to be more demanding – to desire a higher, more profound good – and at the same time, to perceive with increasing clarity that nothing finite can fill our hearts. Thus we will learn to stretch out, unarmed, towards that good which we cannot construct or procure for ourselves by our own efforts; we will learn not be discouraged by the difficulty involved or by the obstacles that come from our sin.»

The Holy Father asserts that «the dynamism of desire is always open to redemption. Even when it advances along mistaken paths, when it chases artificial paradises and seems to lose the ability to yearn for the true good. Even in the abyss of sin, that spark is not extinguished in man that allows him to recognize the true good, to savor it, and thus to begin a path of ascent, for which God, through the gift of his grace, never fails to provide his help. All of us, moreover, need to tread a path of the purification and healing of desire. We are pilgrims towards the heavenly homeland, towards that full, eternal good, which nothing will ever be able to snatch from us.»

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