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Papal Homily at Munich's Fairgrounds

"Heal Our Hardness of Hearing for God's Presence"

MUNICH, Germany, SEPT. 11, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered in German Sunday during the Mass celebrated at Munich's fairgrounds Neue-Messe.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

First, I would like to offer all of you an affectionate greeting. I am happy to be among you once again and to celebrate Holy Mass with you. I am also happy to revisit familiar places which had a decisive influence on my life, shaping my thoughts and feelings: places where I learned how to believe and how to live. This is a time to say thanks to all those -- living and deceased -- who guided and accompanied me along the way. I thank God for this beautiful country and for all the persons who have made it truly my homeland.

We have just listened to the three biblical readings which the Church's liturgy has chosen for this Sunday. All three develop a double theme which is ultimately one, bringing out -- as circumstances dictate -- one or another of its aspects. All three readings speak of God as the center of all reality and the center of our personal life.

"Here is your God!" exclaims the prophet Isaiah (35:4). In their own way, the Letter of James and the Gospel passage say the very same thing. They want to lead us to God, to set us on the right path. But to speak of "God" is also to speak of society: of our shared responsibility for the triumph of justice and love in the world. This is powerfully expressed in the second reading, in which James, a close relative of Jesus, speaks to us.

He is addressing a community beginning to be marked by pride, since it included affluent and distinguished persons, and consequently the risk of indifference to the rights of the poor. The words of James give us a glimpse of Jesus, of that God who became man. Though he was of Davidic, and thus royal, stock, he became a simple man in the midst of simple men and women. He did not sit on a throne, but died in the ultimate poverty of the cross.

Love of neighbor, which is primarily a commitment to justice, is the touchstone for faith and love of God. James calls it "the royal law" (cf. 2:8), echoing the words which Jesus used so often: the reign of God, God's kingship. This does not refer to just any kingdom, coming at any time; it means that God must become the force shaping our lives and actions.

This is what we ask for when we pray: "Thy Kingdom come!" We are not asking for something off in the distance, something we may not even want to experience. Rather, we pray that God's will may here and now determine our own will, and that in this way God can reign in the world. We pray that justice and love may become the decisive forces affecting our world. A prayer like this is surely addressed first to God, but it is also unsettling for us. Really, is this what we want? Is this the direction in which we want our lives to move?

For James, "the royal law," the law of God's kingship, is also "the law of freedom": If we follow God in all that we think and do, then we draw closer together, we gain freedom and thus true fraternity is born. When Isaiah, in the first reading, speaks about God, he goes on to speak about salvation for the suffering, and when James speaks of the social order as a necessary expression of our faith, he logically goes on to speak of God, whose children we are.

But now we must turn our attention to the Gospel, which speaks of Jesus' healing of a man born deaf and mute. Here too we encounter the two aspects of this one theme. Jesus is concerned for the suffering, for those pushed to the margins of society. He heals them and, by enabling them to live and work together, he brings them to equality and fraternity.

This obviously has something to say to all of us: Jesus points out the goal of all our activity. Yet the whole story has a deeper dimension, one which the fathers of the Church constantly brought out, one which particularly speaks to us today. The fathers were speaking to and about the men and women of their time. But their message also has new meaning for us modern men and women.

There is not only a physical deafness which largely cuts people off from social life; there is also a "hardness of hearing" where God is concerned, and this is something from which we particularly suffer in our own time. Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God -- there are too many different frequencies filling our ears. What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited to our age.

Along with this hardness of hearing or outright deafness where God is concerned, we naturally lose our ability to speak with him and to him. And so we end up losing a decisive capacity for perception. We risk losing our inner senses. This weakening of our capacity for perception drastically and dangerously ...

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