Faith is a “Free Gift of God”
By Ann Schneible
VATICAN CITY, MAY 30, 2012 – “God, on the other hand, never tires of us; He never tires of being patient with us, and with His immense mercy He always goes before us; He goes out to meet us first; His “yes” is entirely worthy of our trust.”
Pope Benedict spoke these words during his weekly general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, where he offered a reflection on the letters of Saint Paul, and the role of prayer as a means of personally encountering God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Saint Paul, said the Holy Father, “Paul suffered great tribulation and had to pass through many difficulties and afflictions, but he never yielded to discouragement, for he was sustained by grace and by the nearness of the Lord Jesus Christ, for whom he had become an apostle by surrendering his entire life to Him.”
It is for this reason, the Pope continues, that Paul begins the second letter to the Corinthians “with a prayer of blessing and thanksgiving to God — for there was never a moment in his life as an apostle of Christ that he felt the support of the merciful Father, of the God of all consolation, lessen.”
“̎In the prayer of blessing that introduces the Second Letter to the Corinthians, what prevails in addition to the theme of affliction is the theme of consolation, which should not be understood as simple comfort, but rather as encouragement and exhortation not to let oneself be conquered by tribulation and difficulties. The invitation is to live every situation in union with Christ, who takes all of the world’s suffering and sin upon Himself in order to bring light, hope and redemption.”
The Christian life, as well, is often wrought with difficulties, confusion, and suffering. Nonetheless, “In being faithful to our relationship with the Lord through constant, daily prayer we too are able to feel concretely the consolation that comes from God. And this strengthens our faith, because it makes us experience concretely God’s “yes” to man, to us, to me, in Christ; it makes us feel the fidelity of His love, which extends even to the gift of His Son on the Cross.”
Moreover, Pope Benedict explains that faith is not solely a human action, but is a “gratuitous gift of God rooted in His fidelity, in His ‘yes’, which makes us understand how to live our lives by loving Him and our brothers and sisters. The whole of salvation history is a progressive self-revelation of the God’s faithfulness despite our infidelity and our rejection, in the certainty that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable!” as the Apostle declares in the Letter to the Romans (11:29).”
“God, on the other hand, never tires of us; He never tires of being patient with us, and with His immense mercy He always goes before us; He goes out to meet us first; His “yes” is entirely worthy of our trust.”
It is the Holy Spirit, Pope Benedict continued, who “who makes God’s ‘yes’ in Jesus Christ continually present and alive and it is He who creates in our hearts the desire to follow Him, in order to one day enter fully into His love, when in heaven we will receive a dwelling place not fashioned by human hands.”
The Lord’s faithful ‘yes’ and the Church’s response of ‘amen,’ is echoed throughout the liturgy, expressing our own ‘yes’ to the initiative of God.
“In our prayer, the Holy Father went on to say, “we are called to say ‘yes’ to God and to respond with the ‘amen’ of adherence, of faithfulness to Him with our whole life.”
Pope Benedect concluded his address, saying that “the ‘amen’ of our personal and communal prayer will envelop and transform the whole of our lives, into a life of consolation, a life immersed in eternal and unshakeable Love.”