June 30, 2006

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Prayer is deep connection with God in our daily life

Pope Benedict XVI said to the young pilgrims in Cologne at World Youth Day. “It is not ideologies that save the world; but only turning to the living God, who is our creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is truly good and true. The true revolution consists solely in turning without reserve to God, who is the measure of what is right and [at] the same time is eternal love. And whatever could save us if not love?”

A commentator on the Holy Father’s encyclical “God is Love” thought of what the fox said to the Little Prince in the Saint-Exupery story: “One does not see well except with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes. Men have forgotten this truth. You must not forget it.” The thought expresses well the way the pope encouraged us to carry on the practice of charity: “to see with the eyes of the heart.”

As successors of the Apostles, the bishops are charged with the primary responsibility for carrying out the diaconia in the particular Churches.

Many people of a diocese assist the bishop in fulfilling this responsibility. One thinks of Catholic Charities agencies and organizations such as the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and many others.

The Holy Father wrote: “More than anything, the personnel who carry out the Church’s charitable activity should be moved by Christ’s love, persons whose hearts Christ has conquered with his love, awakening within them a love of neighbor… . The personnel of every Catholic charitable organization want to work with the Church and therefore with the Bishop, so that the love of God can spread throughout the world.”

The pope stressed the point that, “My deep personal sharing in the needs and sufferings of others becomes a sharing of my very self with them: If my gift is not to prove a source of humiliation, I must give to others not only something that is my own, but my very self; I must be personally present in my gift.”

Those who serve are not superior to the ones served, however miserable the situation may be. “Christ took the lowest place in the world—the Cross—and by this radical humility he redeemed us and constantly comes to our aid.

“When we consider the immensity of others’ needs, we can, on the one hand be driven towards an ideology that would aim at doing what God’s governance of the world apparently cannot: fully resolving the problem. Or we can be tempted to give in to inertia, since it would seem that in any event nothing can be accomplished. At such times, a living relationship with Christ is decisive.”

These thoughts led the Holy Father to a final major point. “Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbors, however extreme. In the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, we have a clear illustration of the fact that time devoted to God in prayer not only does not detract from effective and loving service to our neighbor, but is in fact an inexhaustible source of that service. In her letter for Lent 1996, Blessed Teresa wrote to her lay co-workers: ‘We need this deep connection with God in our daily life. How can we obtain it? By prayer.’

“It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work… . A personal relationship with God and an abandon-ment to his will can prevent man from being demeaned and save him from falling prey to the teaching of fanaticism and terrorism.”

Briefly, the Holy Father addressed the temptation to doubt the goodness of God. “Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening [in the face of suffering]. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out like Jesus on the Cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ We should continue asking the question in prayerful dialogue before his face: ‘Lord, holy and true, how long will it be? … Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the ‘goodness and loving kindness of God.’ ”

The second section of the pope’s encyclical ended with these words: “Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world—this is the invitation I would like to extend with the present encyclical.”

(This concludes the archbishop’s eight-part commentary on Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical “God is Love.”) †


Local site Links: