Pope Benedict XVI Speaks On Finding Joy and Man's Desire for God
Learning or relearning an authentic taste for the joys of life
The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for
VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - We offer below the full text of Pope Benedict XVI's Wedneday General Audience on Finding Joy and Man's Desire for God:
Dear brothers and sisters,
The journey of reflection that we are making together this Year of Faith leads us to meditate today on a fascinating aspect of the Human and Christian experience: man carries within himself a mysterious desire for God. In a very significant way, the Catechism of the Catholic Church opens with the following consideration: "The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for"(No. 27).
Such a statement, which even today in many cultural contexts seems quite acceptable, almost obvious, might instead appear as a provocation in the sphere of secularized Western culture. Many of our contemporaries could, in fact, argue that they do not feel such a desire for God at all. For large sectors of society He is no longer desired, expected, but rather a reality that leaves some indifferent and not even worth wasting one's breath over.
Actually, what we have defined as "desire for God" has not completely disappeared and still today, in many ways, appears in the heart of man. Human desire always tends towards certain tangible assets, which are often far from spiritual, and yet it is still faced with the question of what "the" good really is and as a result confront itself with something other than itself, something that man cannot create, but is called upon to recognize. What can really satisfy man's desire?
In my first encyclical, Deus caritas est, I tried to analyze how such dynamism is experienced in human love, an experience which in our era is more easily perceived as a moment of ecstasy, of going beyond oneself, as a place where man senses that he is being filled with a desire that is beyond him. Through love, men and women experience in a new way, thanks to one another, the grandeur and beauty of life and of reality.
If what I experience is not a mere illusion, if I really want the good of the other as a path towards my own good, then I must be willing to de-centralize myself, to put myself at the service of the other to the point of surrendering myself. The answer to the question about the meaning of the experience of love thus passes through the cleansing and healing of the will, which is required by the very good we want for the other. We have to practise, train and even correct ourselves so that that good may be truly wanted.
The initial ecstasy translates 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" (Enc. Deus caritas est, 6). Through this journey man will gradually deepen his knowledge of that love which he initially experienced.
And the mystery which it represents will increasingly come to the fore: not even the beloved, in fact, is able to satiate the desire that dwells in the human heart, indeed, the more authentic the love for each other is, the more the question of its origin, its destiny and its chances of lasting forever emerges. Therefore, the human experience of love has a dynamism that draws us beyond ourselves, it is an experience of a good that leads us beyond ourselves faces us with the mystery that surrounds all existence.
Similar considerations also could also be made about other human experiences, such as friendship, the experience of beauty, love of knowledge: all that is good and experienced by man is projected toward the mystery that surrounds man himself; every wish that arises in the human heart is echoed by a fundamental desire that is never fully satisfied. Certainly from that deep desire, which also hides something enigmatic, one cannot arrive straight to faith. Man, after all, knows what does not satisfy, but can't imagine or define that which would make him experience the happiness that his heart longs for. One cannot know God, beginning simply with man's desire.
From this point of view the mystery remains: the man seeks the Absolute, in small and uncertain steps. And yet, the experience of desire, of the ' restless heart ' as St. Augustine termed it, is very significant. It proves that man is, deep down, a religious being (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 28), a "beggar of God". We can say with the words of Pascal: "man infinitely surpasses man" (Thoughts,. Chevalier 438; ed. Brunschvicg 434). The eyes recognize objects when they are illuminated by light. Hence the desire to know the light itself, which makes the things of the world shine and thus illuminate the sense of beauty.
We therefore must believe that even in our era, seemingly reluctant to the ...
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