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Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass in Regensburg

9/14/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"What Does It Mean to Have Faith?"

REGENSBURG, Germany, SEPT. 14, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a Vatican translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered Tuesday during the Mass celebrated in the Islinger Feld park near Regensburg, attended by some 250,000 people.

* * *

"Those who believe are never alone." This is the theme of these days. Here we can see how true it is. Faith brings us together and gives us a reason to celebrate. It gives us joy in God, joy in his creation, joy in being together.

I realize that this celebration required much time and effort to prepare. By reading newspaper accounts, I had some idea of how many people gave their time and energy to do such a fine job of readying this esplanade.

Thanks to them, we have the cross here on the hill as a sign of God's peace in the world; the access roads have been cleared; security and good order have been ensured; housing has been provided, and so much more. I could not have imagined -- and even now I am only beginning to imagine -- how much work, down to the smallest details, was needed for us to meet here today.

For all this I can only say, in a word: "Heartfelt thanks!" May the Lord repay you for everything you have done, and may the joy which we can now experience as a result of your preparations return a hundredfold to each of you!

I was very moved when I heard how many people, especially from the vocational schools of Weiden and Hamburg, and how many firms and individuals, men and women, helped to make my house and my garden a little more beautiful. I am a bit taken aback by all this goodness, and once again I can only offer an inadequate "thank you!" for all your efforts. You have not done all this for just one person; you have done it in a spirit of solidarity in faith, inspired by love of the Lord and his Church. All this is a sign of true humanity, born of our experience of the love of Jesus Christ.

We are gathered for a celebration of faith. But the question immediately arises: What do we actually believe? What does it mean to have faith? Is it still something possible in the modern world?

When we look at the great "Summae" of theology compiled in the Middle Ages, or we think of the number of books written each day for or against faith, we might lose heart and think that it is all too complicated. In the end, we can no longer see the forest for the trees. True enough: Faith's vision embraces heaven and earth; past, present and future; eternity -- and so it can never be fully exhausted.

And yet, deep down, it is quite simple. The Lord tells us so when he says to the Father: "you have revealed these things to the simple -- to those able to see with their hearts" (cf. Matthew 11:25). The Church, for her part, has given us a little "Summa" in which everything essential is expressed. It is the so-called Apostles' Creed, which is usually divided into 12 articles, corresponding to the Twelve Apostles.

It speaks of God, the creator and source of all that is, of Christ and his work of salvation, and it culminates in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. In its basic structure, the creed is composed of only three main sections, and as we see from its history, it is merely an expansion of the formula for baptism which the risen Lord entrusted to his disciples for all time when he told them: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).

Once we realize this, two things become clear. First, faith is simple. We believe in God -- in God, who is the Beginning and End of human life. We believe in a God who enters into a relationship with us human beings, who is our origin and future. Consequently, faith is, always and inseparably, hope: the certainty that we have a future and will not end up as nothing. And faith is love, since God's love is "contagious."

A second thing also becomes clear: The creed is not a collection of propositions; it is not a theory. It is anchored in the event of baptism -- a genuine encounter between God and man. In the mystery of baptism, God stoops to meet us; he comes close to us and brings us in turn closer to each other.

Baptism means that Jesus Christ adopts us as his brothers and sisters, welcoming us as sons and daughters into God's own family. He thus makes us one great family in the universal communion of the Church. Truly, those who believe are never alone. God comes to meet us. Let us go out to meet God and so meet one another! To the extent we can, let us make sure that none of God's children ever feels alone!

We believe in God. This is a fundamental decision on our part. But is such a thing still possible today? Is it reasonable? From the Enlightenment on, science, at least in part, has applied itself to seeking an explanation of the world in which ...

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