The Holy Father, Pope Benedict closely follows The Meeting. He was in attendance several years ago, as was John Paul II in 1982. Picking up from Father Luigi Giussani’s thinking of “life as a vocation”, the Pope reminds us that everything is answered in relationship to the Infinite. On July 11, 2012 I posted a piece called “The Vocation to Life” which is essential reading if you want to know more of what the Pope, Giussani and Christianity is all about.
The Pope’s letter for the 2012 Meeting follows (emphasis mine).
To the Venerable
Brother Monsignor Francesco Lambiasi,
Bishop of Rimini
I wish to extend my
cordial greetings to you, to the organizers and to all the participants in the
Meeting for Friendship among Peoples, now in its XXXIII year. The theme chosen
this year – “The nature of man is a relationship with the infinite” – is
particularly significant in view of the approaching start of the Year of Faith,
which I have willed to proclaim to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of
the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.
To speak of man and of his yearning for
the infinite means, first and foremost, to recognize his constitutive
relationship with the Creator. Man is a creature of God. Today this word –
creature – seems almost passé: we prefer to think of man as a self-fulfilled
being and master of his own destiny. The consideration of man as a creature
seems “uncomfortable,” because it implies an essential reference to something
else, or better, to Someone else – whom man cannot control – who enters in
order to define his identity in an essential way; a relational identity, whose
first element is the original and ontological dependence on He who wanted us
and created us. Yet this dependence, from which modern and contemporary man
attempts to break free, not only does not hide or diminish, but luminously
reveals the greatness and supreme dignity of man, who is called into life in
order to enter into relationship with Life itself, with God.
To say “the nature of man is a relationship with the infinite” means, then, to say that every person is created so that he may enter into dialogue with the Infinite. At the beginning of the history of the world, Adam and Eve are the fruit of an act of God’s love, made in His image and likeness, and their lives and their relationship with the Creator overlapped: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). And original sin has its ultimate root precisely in our first parents avoiding this constitutive relationship, in wanting to take God’s place, in believing they could get along without Him. Even after sinning, however, the aching desire for this dialogue remains in man, like a signature imprinted with fire in his soul and body by the Creator himself.
Psalm 63  helps us to enter into the heart of this discourse: “O God, my God, for Thee I long at break of day; my soul thirsts for Thee, my body longs for Thee, as desert, arid land, without water” (verse 2). Not only my soul, but even every fiber of my flesh is made to find its peace, its fulfillment in God. And this tension cannot be erased from man’s heart: even when he rejects or denies God, the thirst for the infinite that abides in man does not disappear. Instead, he begins a desperate and sterile search for “false infinites” that can satisfy him at least for the moment. The heart’s thirst and the body’s longing of which the psalmist speaks cannot be eliminated; thus, man unknowingly stretches out in search of the Infinite, but in misguided directions: in drugs, in sexuality lived in a disordered manner, in all-encompassing technologies, in success at any cost, and even in deceptive forms of religiosity. Even the good things that God has created as paths that lead to Him, often run the risk of being absolutized and thus become idols that replace the Creator.
To acknowledge that one is made for the infinite means journeying along a path of purification from what we have called “false infinites”, a path of conversion of heart and of mind. It is necessary to eradicate all the false promises of the infinite that seduce and enslave man. To truly find himself and his identity, to live up to his being, man must turn and recognize that he is a creature, who is dependent on God. The possibility of living a truly free and full life is linked to the acknowledgement of this dependence – which in its depths is the joyous discovery of being God’s children. It is interesting to note how St. Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, sees the opposite of slavery not so much in freedom as in filiation, in having received the Holy Spirit who makes us adopted sons and who allows us to cry out to God” “Abbà! Father” (cf. 8:15). The Apostle to the Gentiles speaks of a “bad” slavery: that of sin, of the law, of the passions of the flesh. To this, however, he does not contrast autonomy, but rather “slavery to Christ” (cf. 6:16-22), indeed he himself calls himself “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” (1:1). The fundamental point, then, is not to eliminate dependence, which is constitutive of man, but to direct it towards the One who alone is able to make us truly free.
At this point, however, a question arises. Is it not perhaps structurally impossible for man to live up to his own nature? And is not this thirst for the infinite, which he feels without ever being able to wholly satisfy it, really a condemnation? This question takes us directly to the heart of Christianity. The Infinite itself, in fact, to make himself a response that man might experience, assumed a finite form. From the Incarnation, from the moment when the Word became flesh, He eliminated the unbridgeable distance between the finite and the infinite: the eternal and infinite God left His heaven and entered into time, He immersed himself in human finitude. Nothing, then, is banal or insignificant along the path of life and of the world. Man is made for an infinite God who became flesh, who assumed our humanity in order to draw us to the heights of his divine being.
Thus do we discover the truest dimension of human existence, that to which the Servant of God Luigi Giussani continually referred: life as vocation. Everything, every relationship, every joy, as well as every difficulty, finds its ultimate meaning in being an opportunity for a relationship with the Infinite, a voice of God that continually calls to us and invites us to lift our gaze, to find the complete fulfillment of our humanity in belonging to Him. “You have made us for Yourself – wrote St. Augustine – and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Confessions I, 1,1). We need not be afraid of what God asks of us, through the circumstance of our lives, were it even the dedication of ourselves in a special form of following and imitating Christ, in the priesthood or religious life. The Lord, in calling some to live totally for Him, calls everyone to recognize the essence of our own nature as human beings: we are made for the Infinite. And God has our happiness at heart, and our complete human fulfillment. Let us ask, then, to enter in and to remain in the gaze of faith that characterized the saints, in order that we might be able to discover the good seed that the Lord scatters along the path of our lives and joyfully adhere to our vocation.
In the hopes that these brief thoughts may be of assistance to all those who are taking part in the Meetin
g, I assure you of my closeness in prayer, and I hope that your reflection during these days might introduce everyone to the certainty and joy of faith.
To you, Venerable Brother in the Episcopate, to the leaders and the organizers of the event, as well as to all those here present, I willingly impart a special Apostolic Blessing.
From Castel Gandolfo, 10 August 2012
Benedictus PP XVI